It is well reported that when hard times are on the horizon, people clings onto certainties. Any well known familiar thing feels reassuring. Everything unknown becomes more scary.
Companies slow down investment in research and development, high risk investments are moved to safer options, travels to exotic countries are delayed. Home is back to be “sweet”.
Certainties are like a “Linus’ blanket syndrome”, a sort of teddy bear to hold on.
Is it the White Lies growing success another sign of the credit crunch?
British newspapers started putting together some data.
In a beautifully ironic article “Things really must be bad – AC/DC are No 1 again”, supported by his review of Black Ice, the new ACDC album, Guardian’s Alexis Petridis made a point using the success of the Australian band as a sign of entering a recession.
Mick Wall on The Times few days later with “Rock in a hard place: heavy metal for the recession” pushed it further. Analysing the simultaneous comeback of metal dinosaurs (ACDC, Metallica, Iron Maiden and even Guns’n’Roses) he wonders if these crisis bring the public to desire more “conventional” forms of entertainments. When you cannot trust anyone, you start listening those you are certain will not betray you.
It may be the same dull soup but at least you know how it tastes.
I must be in my peak of self-esteem in years to feel I can expand the analysis of such journalism’ authorities pushing my opinion to the indie-rock audiences.
The UK music scene hasn’t been experimental for a while.
I don’t mean I expect something new, actually I think the word “new” in absolute terms doesn’t have any sense. Just something that is enthralling to become inspirational for enough bands to inspire a “new movement”. A music that looks ahead.
Those kind of phenomena that happen around a city and then spread all over the world.
You know what I mean, I name the city you get to the music. New York mid seventies? Manchester end of eighties? Seattle early ninenties? Bristol mid nineties?
Internet is a usual suspect. The web is clearly levelling out the world differences and making a huge jam of youth cultures.
As never before, more of what Coke and Big Mac publicists hoped to obtain since the Cold War, people from Berlin, Reykjavik and New York are similar. This echoes into music.
I cannot think of a truly original sound emerging for over a decade. I can think of a lot of sounds always merging into pretty much the same thing.
Music scene is producing the 3rd and 4th generation of bands’ clones. Either the model is Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines or The Strokes the substance doesn’t change. New acts lazily follows the music of the albums they like when they decided to put up a band. No inventiveness, not even the curiosity to investigate if their models had references too, but I don’t want to end up talking of Television or XTC today, so better I stop here.
The bands I stumble upon these days tend to grasp to some predecessor. Play a music that is reassuring. It satisfies listener’s need, gives something new without adventuring in foreign lands.
White Lies fit into this group. They give to the music fans who would never feel reassured by Angus Young‘s riffs, something at the same time new and deep-rooted into a well known genre. Something to hold on.
White Lies are the quintessentials black and white band: gloomy, deep, melancholic. To the surprise of outside world, they make miserable people’s happiness.
Dark dresses, white lights, B&W logo.
A baritone voice that sings obscure songs with depressing titles.
They walk the well-trodden path of the ancestors. Joy Division, Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Interpol and, of course, Editors are all audibly influencing White Lies music.
The positive side is that it works well. Live, White Lies put on a brilliant show of dark rock that suits the perceived miserable mood affecting the country at this exact moment.
A music comfortable to the ears, new and well-known at the same time. A music that doesn’t need repeated listening to get into. Is that a problem? No, it isn’t.
If your mental state is solid enough to tolerate, out of a set of six songs, three titled To Lose My Life, The Price Of Love and, as a closer, Death, you should listen to them.
A profound, steady drumming with a tribal pace is the framework. The songs walk solemnly into the space of those well-known mates sustained by a (rigorously black and white and Rickenbacker) bass played by Charles Cave. A guy who must know the Peter Hook songbook by heart.
Eighties’ gothic harmonies resound from a Roland organ, melodies sung by Harry McVeigh bass voice add further shadows to the dark atmosphere sliced by his guitar.
The set is grandiose, anthemic, crowd-pleasing. Despite there is nothing brave enough to shout at the miracle, a bunch of very good songs kept me happy for thirty minutes. There are not weak moments. The performance grows and grows, well supported by effective backlights that emphasize the ambitions of these four guys.
White Lies debut album is expected to come out early next year on Fiction (The Cure anyone?) and will be titled…erm… To Lose My Life Or To Lose My Love.
You have two options here. If you are remediably depressed you should run away from these guys, look for a therapist and go dancing with Santogold or TV on the Radio.
If, on the contrary, you belong to the irremediably depressed army, the kind of pissed off indie-person bored even to listen to Ian Curtis, self-punishing for any bad thing happening in the world, well, you may find that the White Lies music is what you have been after since Editors moved mainstream. Has Tom Smith been alerted?
In the end if you cannot avoid to enter that tunnel, better you get something to listen on your iPod while you walk in the dark. White Lies not only give you a perfect soundtrack, they switch on the (back)light to show there is hope at the end.
I may have talked about backlights in the past but they are recurring often at live gigs that few more words on how to deal with them to transform a problem in an opportunity can be helpful.
Backlights can make your exposure meter go mad. I don’t know how modern cameras deal with a flashing light entering your lens, but usually it is a very difficult situation. Over and under exposure are very likely and quite unpredictable considering how quickly lights change.
My solution is to set the cameras to manual and ignore the exposure meter. Spot measured an average grey part of the stage in an quiet moment.
Bracketing could help. Consider that the differences between lights and no light are quite large. Bracket with at least a +/- 2 stops window.
Digital photographers can always have a look and adapt the setting. It is a time consuming and distracting procedure in the short time of the 3 songs that I suggest to minimize, anticipating the problems.
Backlights can flare your lens with loss in image quality. Ghost reflections and generally a lower contrast is the outcome. There is not a lot you can do to avoid this when a spotlight enters frontally your lens (at least before photoshop). It is mainly due to the lens coating quality and to the number of lenses the light has to cross before reaching the sensor (or the film).
The expensive solution is to use high quality prime lenses. Primes have less glasses (and less flare) than zooms. If you are committed to photography, do not save your money on lenses.
I am not sponsoring Zeiss lenses (OK, I am) fact is that I still have to find another lens manufacturer that gives similar contrasted, razor-sharp shots in strong backlight situations.
A cheap solution which avoids the problem instead of dealing with it, is to hide the backlight behind something or someone. If you can move along the pit, put the musician, his instrument, whatever in the middle between the light and your camera. This eludes the issue and also gives a nice bright frame around the subject. You can emphasizes anything translucent as hair, a dress, beads of sweat or water drops.
It works as the equivalent of kicker lights (the side lights pointed from the back to the hair) in studio portraits.
Then learn to be ready and quick, try not to hesitate. When the lights change so quick it is difficult to predict what happens next and they don’t forgive your indecision.
Try also to listen to the music. It is quite common that light changes following the song rythm. Since a song usually repeats 2 or three times, use the first to spot the right moment and the others to shoot.
I will never end stressing the point that concert photography is a combination of being into photography (of course) as well as being into music. With just one of those passions, good results are tougher to arrive.