Uncut satisfies a modest crowd

Post-punkers, Uncut, brood at The Grad Club.
Post-punkers, Uncut, brood at The Grad Club.
The Moustachioed Tomate Potate.
The Moustachioed Tomate Potate.

Concert Review: Uncut @ The Grad Club

There is nothing more cliché than music reviews that compare bands to other bands that sound like them. Beyond that, it is even more cliché to say certain bands sound like Joy Division, the Mancunian quartet whose 1979 album Unknown Pleasures virtually defined the post-punk sound that gained popularity throughout the early 1980s.

That being said—although still technically early in their recording career—Uncut is having a hard time avoiding the endless comparisons to The Band That Will Forever Be The Benchmark By Which All Other Post Punk Bands Will Be Judged—Joy Division, that is. I can see where it comes from—the sparse arrangements, the dramatic but not over the top stage presence, the steady beat, brooding lyrics and jagged guitar stabs.

That aside, Uncut have released an amazing debut on the white-hot Toronto based label, Paper Bag Records. Dark and atmospheric clearly being the place where they feel most comfortable, it’s not hard to picture Uncut’s debut, Those Who Hung Hang Here, as the perfect soundtrack to a night out at the local bat cave.

Of interesting note is that Uncut started off as a blend between atmospheric guitar rock and hyper-modern minimal techno and issued their first single, “Understanding The New Violence,” which was quickly picked up by taste-making DJs such as Tiga and Miss Kitten during the height of the ‘electroclash’ explosion.

This would seem like a strange turn of events, but at the time, Uncut was still in its infancy and was largely influenced by former member and techno producer Jake Fairley.

When Fairley’s techno records started gaining him fans all over the world, his involvement with Uncut took the back burner, and remaining member Ian Worang was forced to step back and regroup. He recruited some skilled musicians from the Toronto indie scene and the band headed in a new direction as a proper rock band. The driving beat of the techno influence can still be found in a few songs such as “Copilot”, but similarities end there.

The Grad Club was noticeably under-populated for a Friday night, which is a shame because this lineup would not have suffered such an embarrassing turnout in other locales. The problem with putting on a show on a Friday night, especially this time of year, and especially in Kingston, is that you are competing with every beer-soaked keg party from here to Aberdeen Street. This aside, I don’t think anyone who went to the show left disappointed. And how could they? The line-up was solid, with Toronto-based Nassau and Kingston’s own Tomate Potate opening and providing an eclectic showcase of some of Canada’s up-and-coming talent.

Queen’s own dynamic duo, Tomate Potate, were up first with what can best be described as a lively, animated set of original, inspired songs. They even gave out party hats and, at one moment, had an audience member freestyle rapping on-stage. A bit out of place alongside the other bands, Tomate Potate were full of merriment and had everyone dancing by the end of their set. Of note however, is that when you are the opening act and you bring a bunch of your friends out to see you play an opening gig for more established acts, it’s a good idea to encourage everyone to stick around and see the other two bands that you’ve already paid cover to see.

Next up was Nassau, a Toronto based band fronted by Jon McCann the ex-drummer of Guided By Voices. Nassau turned in a fine performance that sadly fell flat with the audience who clearly were unfamiliar with their songs—the highlight of their set was a sublime rendition of The Cure classic, “A Forest.” That’s alright though, their debut CD, A Fire In the Ashes, is barely a week old and they are only just starting to get some recognition for their blend of psychedelic, fuzz-punk guitars, strings and orchestral pop flourishes. A band to watch for, Nassau are all top-shelf players with a strong debut record that admittedly would be a bit ambitious to recreate on the small stage of The Grad Club.

Onstage, Uncut proved to be skilled players and did their very best to make the most of a show sorely lacking in attendance. From the dramatic silhouettes cast upon the ceiling by a floor mounted spotlight to the steady, driving pulse of songs such as show closer “Understanding the New Violence,” these guys are poised and ready for bigger things. I don’t think I was alone in wishing their set had been a bit longer, especially after hearing them play some new songs that have been written since their record first appeared in stores last May. They seemed to be just hitting their stride before the show was over.

Any comparisons to the oft-mentioned Joy Division are no longer necessary, as this band is clearly less gloomy and bass-guitar driven. They promise to return before long, so if good Canadian indie rock with some substance is your scene—don’t miss out next time ’round.

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