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[Reprinted with permission from Popstache.com]
It’s almost a crime against humanity that the music of Veronica Falls is not nestled securely at the top of the Billboard charts, selling a gazillion copies and inducing the kind of fever usually triggered by Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. Almost, because there are real crimes against humanity that are far more serious, like genocide, ethnic cleansing and the music of Lionel Richie. But in a perfect world, bullets wouldn’t be used to kill people, bullets would only be used to illustrate the speed with which bands like Veronica Falls ascended to the toppermost of the poppermost of the pop charts.
Touring to promote their sophomore release, Waiting For Something To Happen (Slumberland), the London quartet packed a crowd into The Empty Bottle for a late night show on a cold Thursday night in mid-March. It was almost 13 months ago that they graced the same stage, but tonight they played a longer set, given they had twice as much recorded material from which to draw, in addition to their eponymous self-titled 2011 debut.
Although the group is still relatively new as a band, three-quarters are veterans. Lead singer and guitarist Roxanne Clifford and drummer Patrick Doyle hail from the aptly named Sexy Kids and singer and guitarist James Hoare was formerly in Your Twenties (which may also be apt, but irrelevant). Clifford and Doyle famously met Hoare at a concert by UK twee-pop pioneers Comet Gain, and bassist Marion Herbain was a longtime friend of Clifford’s, recruited when they hatched the plan to form a band.
As one might guess, tonight’s setlist featured cuts from the new album prominently, but the group did not shy away from sharing highlights of their debut as well, and by the end of the night, the selections worked out to an even split. Veronica Falls specialize in three-part harmonies led by Clifford’s darling honey-soaked soprano delivery, Hoare’s prominent baritone backing and Doyle’s tenor (and at times falsetto) accents from behind his drum kit. Hoare and Doyle echo their nominal “lead singer” vocally throughout their songs, occasionally even antiphonally, so much so that Clifford doesn’t really seem like a “lead singer” at all, and that’s one of the most engaging charms of the Veronica Falls sound. With the addition of their vigorously chiming and rhyming guitars and Herbain’s muscular-but-never-showy bass strumming, the foursome conjure the ghosts of power pop past while somehow crafting something not necessarily completely new, but entirely enjoyable.
In a phone interview last year, Doyle was quick to dismiss the easy critical crutch of seeing Veronica Falls as nothing more than mid-’80s twee-pop C-86 reconstructionists, and indicated that they draw more of their inspiration from American indie pop, and nowhere is that more clear than on the last single from their first record, “Beachy Head,” which was next in their set and clearly owes an allegiance to Beat Happening’s “Bad Seeds.” Next up was what should, by all rights, be the next single from Waiting, “Broken Toy.” It has tight harmonies and dynamic pacing, followed by their rendition of the title track. “Everybody’s crazy, what’s your excuse, baby?” Clifford crooned slyly as Doyle pounded the drums in rat-a-tat fashion. This song illuminated the vocal imbalance between Clifford’s lead and Hoare’s backing tenor most egregiously. Her vocals should have been turned up, and his down, but, despite Empty Bottle being one of Chicago’s best live music venues, words and vocals are never the point of emphasis there. What mattered more in tonight’s show was the speedily strumming guitars and bounciness of their songs, and that was not lacking.
Veronica Falls may never be at the “top of the pops,” but no one can dispute the claim that they craft perfect “pop” songs, and if they can graduate to slightly larger venues and have a rewarding career in music, that will have to be good enough. But with songs this good, and music so lovely, it’s a shame that not everyone will fall victim to the wily ways of Veronica Falls.
[This excerpted article is reprinted with permission from Popstache.com. Click here to read the complete review and the set list from the show.]
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