Yeasayer; Deap Vally – review

Lexington; Old Blue Last, London

Having emerged from Brooklyn's fecund band swamp five years ago, Yeasayer have outlasted the initial spring tide of hype. Now they're one of America's most sinuous outfits, and their forthcoming third album, Fragrant World, is one of 2012's most anticipated records. Once, they touted a mantric, rattly drone-folk sound, a little like Animal Collective with a den full of African records. But their last album, 2010's Odd Blood, catapulted singing programmer Chris Keating, singing bassist Ira Wolf Tuton and singing guitarist-keyboard player Anand Wilder out of the blogosphere and into widespread acclaim on the heady thermal of electronics.

One of the continuing delights of this restless band is their inability to stay still long enough to be pinned and mounted. Behind the bobbing, grooving trio (augmented tonight by a touring drummer called Michael Cale Parks) there are Jamaican steel pans hanging from the walls, used as mirrors rather than instruments. Two of the band – Wilder and Parks – sport long hair in a top knot, like arty yoga types. Mostly, though, Yeasayer are a dance band. Mass shuffling kicks off with Fingers Never Bleed, a new song that pulsates and glides in equal measure. The band's huge, dazzling lighting rig is ready to upgrade to the larger venues Yeasayer will be playing on their autumn tour.

But for such an innovative lot, Yeasayer's second sold-out night at London's Lexington has a certain old-fashioned charm to it. Warming up for their appearance at Latitude, and airing new songs from Fragrant World (out on 20 August), they played one set in this room above a pub last Wednesday, announcing a surprise show for the following night. Instead of having to scan some hard-to-find QR code to get in, fans could buy tickets for £10 each, cash on the door – the kind of thing people last used to do in about 1991.

It's not the only blast from the past at this gig. One of Yeasayer's new songs, Reagan's Skeleton, not only appears to invoke a dead president – a hobby last noted in American 80s punk bands – but its chorus faintly recalls the melodic progression of the Beloved's Sweet Harmony (a hit in 1993). Very old songs such as 2080 are brought up to date; Odd Blood's O.N.E. is a thoroughly remixed version of itself, one that could exploit its club dynamics even harder than it does. There are times, though, when Yeasayer's glances in the rear-view mirror bode ill. The 80s have been comprehensively asset-stripped in recent times, but something of that decade's slick synth-funk repeatedly bubbles to the fore of the band's ferociously heterodox tunes tonight. Although they are never anything less than impressive, it would be a sad loss if this inventive outfit became yet more smug post-ironic recyclers.

There's reuse aplenty in another packed room above another pub a couple of miles down the road. Buzz band Deap Vally's debt to the White Stripes is probably actionable. But here's the twist: they're both women, sporting the short shorts of Daisy Duke and the big hair of 80s soft rock sisters Heart. Drummer Julie Edwards is quite sensational, upgrading Meg White's inspired thwacking to looser, almost jazzy rolls. Singing guitarist Lindsey Troy yowls like a wildcat while coaxing minimal, heavy blues rock riffs out of her guitar on songs such as set opener Baby I Call Hell or forthcoming single Gonna Make My Own Money. Improbably, the Californians met through a needlework class; they are, however, impossible not to love.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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