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The music room: Funeral Party

James Torres, Chad Elliott and Kimo Kauhola Photo: oxfordstudent.com

Despite taking their name from a song by The Cure, Funeral Party display little of the self-conscious melancholia which characterised those kings of 1980s goth-pop. Rather, they have taken on board the self-righteously angsty lyrics of Robert Smith and married them with an aggressive post-Rage Against the Machine instrumentalism which, when done right, makes their music a breath of fresh-air in an age of easy overproduction.

Taking to the stage to strains of what could almost be ambient electronica, the band at first strike one as a another collection of the overly trendy young men who populate the stages of small venues on both sides of the Atlantic (Funeral Party hail from California); skinny jeans, black leather jackets and a couple of moustaches which bring to mind a Brazilian pimp.

To be honest, they do nothing to disparage this initial impression. The guitarist plays staccato chords or fiddles around at the lower end of the fret-board, the drummer hammers away while showering everybody nearby in sweat, and the singer alternately mumbles or screams his way through each three minute track.

It is no wonder that the band cite The Strokes as an influence along with other Pitchfork.com favourites like Dance Disaster Movement, Rat-a-tat and Girls (a band which is impossible to Google, incidentally). Interestingly, the band also claims to be influenced by Radiohead, although it is difficult to draw a line from Thom Yorke’s orchestral rock to the exuberant punk-metal of Funeral Party. This may be a deliberate act on the part of the band, who openly state that they “don’t care to be associated with any particular scene”.

This wilfulness and disinclination towards being pinned down clearly goes over well with the audience, who shout along to incomprehensibly screamed verses and crowd-surf while the bouncers look on and grumble. Half-way through the gig the ceiling is dripping with thrown beer and both those on the stage and in the audience have the flushed, excited look of children who have just eaten too many sweets and been told they can stay up late by their parents.

This childishness is present throughout the performance, both literally and through the music. A sizeable proportion of the audience look as though they wouldn’t be allowed to be doing this on a school night – it’s one of those gigs where one receives a special stamp to prove that they are among the chosen few allowed to buy beer – and the band’s music reflects this. When asked about the idea behind their debut album, The Golden Age of Knowhere, the band describe the idea of a scenario ‘similar to Lord of the Flies…building a society from nothing’. Ignoring the fact that the children’s society in Golding’s book was filled with violence and superstition, one must remember that by the end the children had to be saved by the adults. For those willing to let their inner child free, Funeral Party can be an enjoyable night out.

However, those looking for music with a little more depth will be disappointed, and these guys have painted themselves into a corner as far a musical sophistication goes.

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