I first encountered The Megaphonic Thrift on 12 May 2010.
Five had gone to The Borderline to see Langhorne Slim, an alt-country troubadour delivering glorious love songs amidst raucous live performances. Arriving early in line with obsessive compulsive gig habits, checked first what time Langhorne was due onstage, also noting the evening’s support band – of whom none of us had ever heard. The name alone was intriguing, enough to convince us not to disappear elsewhere for beers in the meantime, although gave an inkling that not a great amount of thought had gone into aligning the acts in any sense at all.
Such suspicions were vindicated when the band took to the stage and gave us what I was only able to describe for months afterwards as ‘four Norwegians playing Daydream Nation’. Despite the punk sensibilities apparent in Langhorne Slim’s headline show I’m not sure the fairly partisan americana crowd quite ‘got’ the support. I however was hooked. The intimate surroundings (and particularly low ceiling) of the Borderline proved a great setting for a thrilling half an hour of shoegaze-cum-noisepop balancing just perfectly soaring melodies and clever harmonies with ear-splitting riffs and feedback. Halfway through one song, at a point on the verge of uncomfortable volume, an apparently magic flange pedal managed to double the decibels to incapacitating.
I sought out the EP ‘A Thousand Years of Deconstruction’ and then its expansion into debut long-player ‘Decay Decoy’, both of which provided welcome confirmation of first impressions, paying faithful respect to pretty much everything that was good about (great) early nineties guitar music. The parallels with the works of Messrs Moore, Gordon, Mascis, Barlow and Shields are pretty glaring in that early output, released through champions of nu-gaze Club AC30, albeit in a respectful and very impressive, rather than derivative, fashion.
Fast forward nearly two years from the Borderline and the band are in the process of releasing an eponymous second album. A modest and fortunate UK following are granted the first listen, and I think the first opportunity to buy, at consecutive nights at The Lexington and Old Blue Last on 31 January/1 February prior to a formal hometown release show in Bergen the following week.
Free entry to the The Old Blue Last ensures what I imagine is a larger than expected audience has assembled as the band take the stage, thankfully though light on the chatty disinterested hipster crowd which one can encounter in Shoreditch venues. The band open with two songs from the first album – Neues and Talks Like A Weed King – both of which set the tone (and levels) for the rest of the night. They are followed by Tune Your Mind, the opening track of the new album and the first of seven new tracks in a twelve song set.
The band’s confidence in new material is justified – all of it standing up well next to earlier stuff. The new songs hint at more complex arrangements than previously with new melodies and maybe even an increased degree of patience, while remaining enveloped in the trademark noise. ‘Moonstruck’ was noticeable in particular for harmonies reminiscent even of the Byrds cleverly woven in amongst the wave of riffs. If there was a song that didn’t convince as well as the others it was penultimate track Swan Song, which didn’t feel quite finished, although being sandwiched in between Acid Blues and Queen of Noise it could be forgiven for not standing out.
The night ends with lead guitar, spewing wondrous feedback, lodged above a pipe six inches from the ceiling as the band leave the stage, triumphant.
The album has deservedly received positive reviews from all corners since its European release and I imagine will be similarly well-received when Sonic Unyon get their hands on some copies across the water as well. Hoping very much they get the success they so clearly merit, although selfishly I have no problem with a few more gigs in small venues (and maybe the odd festival…ahem…Reading…ahem) in the short term.
The Megaphonic Thrift are back in the UK in March. I am going to the Buffalo Bar in Islington on the 14th. If you are any kind of fan of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr or My Bloody Valentine I highly recommend you do too…