Them Swoops, Argentina, Tokyo Denmark Sweden - The Workers Club, Melbourne
Written by James Arnold-Garvey
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It seemed that the warm weather had finally arrived in Melbourne, but on Friday (out of nowhere) winter returned like a horror movie cliché to take one last stab when we weren’t looking. The cosiness of The Workers Club is always a popular retreat on blustery nights like these, but anyone who fancied their chances as both refugee and opportunistic punter that night were out of luck: the final show of the second iteration of the Triple Treat Tour had completely sold out.
Three up-and-coming young groups had been working their way down the East Coast, headlining in their respective hometowns. Melbourne was the last stop, and those who turned up sans ticket were condemned to huddle under the heater near the band-room entrance, hoping for snatches of the summery pop goodness coming from inside.
Sydney’s electro pop trio Tokyo Denmark Sweden wisely kicked things off in measured fashion. Starting with a couple of moody, atmospheric numbers, lead singer Amy’s polished voice was front and centre, and rightly so: reminiscent of Karen O and Emily Haines, her performance was virtually note perfect. Backed by a couple of synths and a laptop, the simple on-stage setup ensured the focus was almost solely on their frontwoman, though for the first 15 minutes things may have been a little too static.
As the crowd started to build, the pace picked up. Their mid-set cover of SBTRKT’s Hold On garnered murmurs of approval, and Paper Sails saw Chris jumping out from behind the keyboard and onto a beat-up Stratocaster, assisting with harmonies in the process. The movement helped enliven their set, and by the time they finished their too-darn-catchy single When it Breaks, the vibe was definitely up. Their last track moved away from anthemic dance pop with a flurry of tribal drums and multitudes of layered vocal samples. It was a great way to work the crowd.
Argentina is Alex Ritchie, a Brisbane lad, who performs his songs with a touring band. Theirs was a less dancefloor-oriented set, and things now turned a little dark: deep sustained synth bass notes overlain with jangly electric guitar were present in virtually every song, and Ritchie’s lyrics are brutally honest. Using backing tracks to flesh out their sound, the band were solid and the seamless song transitions for the first few numbers was impressive.
Backing vocalist and percussionist Lauren was pounding away on a floor tom by the second track, and Ritchie produced one of his own a few songs later. They returned to them throughout the set, ensuring there was always something interesting to look at. Bad Kids (‘I used to be a bad kid / Used to be bad news’) and Not Your Friend (‘I am not your friend / Just someone who listens’) could have come across as contrived or unattractively cynical, but Alex sold his message. As a frontman he was energetic and earnest, hunching into the microphone and attacking his vocals, accruing a healthy sheen by set’s end.
In an odd moment, Argentina closed with a murder ballad, their frontman explaining that the song was about a man who spends 30 years in jail after killing his wife. It was not exactly ending on a high, but the song itself was quite moving. By the end of their set, the room had filled to sweaty, rowdy, beery capacity and the crowd was abuzz in anticipation of the local heroes.
Them Swoops have had a big year for a band that’s not even one year old, and after seeing them live, it’s not hard to see why. Core members Dave and Chris were obviously riding high on the back of a big week, and all five band members filled the small Workers Club stage with glee, to rapturous applause. They wasted no time, kicking off their short homecoming set with Roll Around, a burst of infectious guitar pop that instantly had the crowd bopping. All the right elements were in place: tight poppin’ bass, fuzzy staccato guitars, catchy melodies and a group genuinely excited to be there.
Ploughing through a few similarly uptempo numbers, including the strokesish Rollerskate, things didn’t really slow down until, uh, Slow Down, a ballad apparently ruminating on the virtues of a more moderately paced lifestyle: ‘If I wanna grow old / I should keep my medicine down’. Triple j Unearthed hit Work Around It has had a trim, being condensed for a more refined sugar hit. Their influences are plain to see (The Shins and Phoenix most obviously) but that wasn’t limiting: the band seemed to have no pretension about the type of music they’re making. They closed the night as joyously as they started, inviting their tourmates onstage for a shameless, rowdy version of Jimmy Nail’s Ain’t No Doubt. Perfectly appropriate.
With that, the house lights went up and we were sent back out into the night, mentally shielded from the elements now these bands had renewed our hope that summer was really, truly, just around the corner.