Rhythm and Theftby Roger Young, images Sydelle Willow Smith / 16.02.2011
Like some kind of low-grade MGMT cover band, She Man Lion hit the Mercury stage on Friday night, sonically resembling a mash up of The Plastics and Die Heuwels Fantasties. It’s not they’re bad per se, just average. The sparse crowd tried to get into the bouncy beat but the waves of synth and the indistinct vocals all seem to be coming from different places; the band itself just doesn’t coalesce into a solid unit; their lyrics and harmonies sounding like a high school band that still relies on the print media for its music news. I gotta admit though that I’m instantly prejudiced against any band that uses one of those 50s mics.
Mostly it feels that She Man Lion are taking the easy way out. Their sound is full, too full. It’s, as if for lack of better ideas, they decided to throw everything in. It’s a buzzy, plingey, short bass note, double time, synth smothered wave of murk. Lyrically, they also leave much to be desired; you need a lot more conviction and er, music to pull off a line like: “Don’t stop the music”. I also find suspect the idea of someone in their early twenties singing about: “Twenty five years ago” and “This is the sound of a generation, this is the voice on the radio waves”. I mean, who listens to the radio anymore? This is what I find ultimately false about She Man Lion; their ideas feel borrowed and they don’t seem to be borrowing with any real passion. Essentially, they’re too limp to even be whiney.
Halfway through the set the singer guy announces, referring to the fact that The Wild Eyes cancelled their support slot, “We hope that the drummer from the band that everyone came to see gets well soon”. Oh well, at least they know their place. And then just as I’ve given up on the waves of Owl City with the voice of She Wants Revenge coming off the stage; things change, not much but they do. They start to hold back on the synth, the harmonies start to make sense, the bass player ups his game, in short they start to sound less like a million derivative ideas and more like an actual band. They stop trying, they strip back, they rock out.
It’s at this moment that I stop seeing just kids dressing and playing like they think they’re expected to but rather a bunch of people who are enjoying the vibe, actually into it. It’s hard to describe what happened. Musically very little had changed, maybe their last three tracks are just better songs and maybe they just accepted where they are and went with it; but it was remarkably noticeable. The crowd feels it. The bass becomes throbbing, the drummer begins to really drive the set, the vocals separate from the background. Suddenly there is real dancing, suddenly She Man Lion become a band with promise.
All bands have influence, borrow ideas. It’s the nature of creation; everything has been done before. It’s how you own your theft that makes a difference.