On Friday just gone, DC and I went to the Roundhouse to see Canadian indie band Alvvays. I first came across them at End of the Road last year. What stood out for me then, even when I was suffering from a bad back and feeling a bit sorry for myself, was the beauty of the melodies. Good riffs too, but the tunes and singer Molly Rankin’s voice rang out from The Woods Stage in early evening and captivated a massive crowd. Naturally, I had to get both their albums afterwards, and predictably, I loved them. Three songs went on every playlist I could justify: “Archie, Marry Me” and “Ones Who You Love You” from the first, self-titled album, and “Dreams Tonite” from recent release, “Antisocialites”.
The Roundhouse was sold out. The crowd mostly 20 and 30 somethings. I was surprised there weren’t a few more of my generation. After all, bands like Blondie and Elastica are clear influences. The band don’t mess around with their songs – most don’t get much beyond three minutes and solos don’t really happen. It’s all about the song. You could probably pin most of the melodies to something else from the past if you really tried, but they sound fresh, uplifting and exciting. This is just music to exult to.
And that’s what the concert was like. 17 songs in not much more than an hour. Everything from the new album, and most of the first album too. The punkier ones came first, with “Adult Diversion” and “Plimsoll Punks” standouts for me. But the second half of the show was where they rolled out the anthems, and oh, what joy! And, of course, “Ones Who Love You” and “Archie, Marry Me” were absolute highlights. I reckon most people in the crowd were singing along to “Archie”. It’s a total celebration. One of the best concert moments I’ve experienced for a while. DC particularly liked “Forget About Life”, which is the closer on “Antisocialites”. It’s a reflective song, with imagery straight from the Bruce Springsteen songbook. It’s a lighters (iPhones)-out moment live. Molly relinquished her guitar, the drums ceased, and her voice became the true star. And she has a lovely, plaintive tone, which gives the songs a sense of fragility amid the feistiness and anthemic choruses.
The encore included a cover of an Elastica song, “Blue”. That was on their first album, although it’s not one of the tracks that I remember well. But the choice of Elastica was interesting. The band only had one album of note, their first. But it was, as I said in my book, “I Was There – A Musical Journey”, the best British punk album since punk, when it came out in the mid-1990s. It combined the punk rhythms with a great sense of melody – in the same way that Alvvays, and that other great favourite of mine, Honeyblood, do.
It all ties together. Listening to Alvvays after End of the Road, I realised who Annelotte of Amber Arcades might have been listening to when she put together her wonderful first album, “Fading Lines”.
I’m delighted to see that Alvvays are playing Latitude this year. In the BBC tent. I shall be there!