Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

SXSW Friday: On an On / The Zombies / The 1975

March 19, 2013

I had heard that On An On were garnering a lot of buzz, but I must admit that I hadn’t heard any of their dance-pop before watching their set. (I’m part of the problem! I admit it!) I was pleasantly surprised by their sound, an artsy tack that landed somewhere between the quirky excesses of Hot Chip and the way-out-there sounds of MGMT’s second album. The band was very clearly energetic and enthusiastic, but they rarely resorted to dance-rock drumbeats or cliched dance-pop melodies. Instead, they built indie-rock songs that happened to be fun to dance along with. The band told us from the stage that they were celebrating their one-year anniversary that day, which was impressive: for a sound this clear and strong, I’d have expected much more time tweaking and developing. But sometimes you hit a home run on your first at-bat, you know?

I stepped inside to watch The Zombies, who were most certainly not in their first at-bat. The very polite British men set about schooling us on how much of the classic rock radio canon they had written. They would introduce a song with a backstory, then announce the title to great applause, then launch into an incredibly familiar tune. I thought repeatedly, “They wrote this?!” And they did. It was an incredibly fun set to hear, as the British pop was excellently performed. The Zombies may have formed in 1962, but they’ve still got it. Rock on, Zombies. Rock on.

The 1975 took the stage with a brand of dance-inspiring indie-rock similar to On An On’s. The 1975’s is more rooted in indie-rock sounds than pop sounds, with some electronic groove thrown in. The songs are triumphant in sound, with the band creating environments ripe for cathartic guitar lines, epic sung melodies, and booming bass parts. It is profoundly fun to listen to. The best part about this gleeful sound is that the band of young Brits looks completely downtrodden while playing their tunes, making a strange and hilarious juxtaposition. Even with their not-so-smiley disposition, the band played a great set that set me to dancing. Highly recommended.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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