Andy Bull @ The Brightside, 2nd May
The Brightside is devoid of its usual punk rockers. Tonight, the small, intimate venue is filled with plaid-wearing, bearded folk in chunky shoes and rolled-up skinny jeans. There is a gaggle of long-haired fangirls at the front, followed by a group I like to term ‘the sensitive bros’, who hide their true passion for indie pop with stoney faces and backwards caps, and then the rest of us mere mortals hovering around the stairs and booths. Andy Bull and Cub Sport (formerly Cub Scouts) have pulled a considerable crowd.
Cub Sport claim the stage inconspicuously, and open with thumping indie guitar twangling – the kind every Brisbane venue has heard a gazillion times. It doesn’t take too long to realise there is something slightly offbeat about these guys, their skills are way above the usual and their creativity is unbounded. The crowd instantly recognises Paradise, the band’s surf-pop hit of 2013. The pipey synths and (very enthusiastic) tambourine bashing bring a fabulously retro feel-goodness as vocalist, Tim Nelson, demonstrates a range that can only be described as blissful. His voice is clear and strong, tender in the higher notes, but sadly lost half the time in poor sound mixing (anything but the band’s fault).
There’s variety too, as the band switch from happy-making dance tunes to glam-rock with cymbal crashes and pounding bass. The crowd jump up and down when they hear Told You So, known from Triple J Unearthed, and even more so when we’re introduced to a mysteriously dramatic cover which ends up being a mash-up of Beyonce tracks. Never let it be said that a skinny white boy can’t rock Drunk In Love.
Andy Bull arrives to rapturous applause, looking very Justin Timberlake sporting a backwards cap and miniature moustache. All sorts of spacey synths and atmospheric sounds linger over R&B-style electronic percussion until we hear Andy‘s characteristic falsetto soaring into the first track of his latest album, Just One Expression, Just One Line. It’s a bold intro albeit slightly alienating, it’s a creative playhouse that immediately demonstrates the production skill at hand.
It’s the beginning of an Andy Bull roller-coaster. The band – who are clearly polished to the extreme – alternate between pumping out tight synth-based melodies that bounce around the room and deep dark cinematic odes to every David Bowie album ever. The former are the highest points, clever in their detail and intricacy but still engaging the crowd. Upbeat tracks like Talk Too Much (effortlessly cool) and Baby I Am Nobody Now (brilliant in its layering) remain relatable but still smack of creative cleverness and unusual expression. Even the slow but intensely genuine single, Dog, is beautiful executed, and the audience sings every word. It’s in more abstract tunes that Bull becomes a bit too introspective, overlaying what seems like hundreds of synth melodies over avant-garde bashing and clanging which – while I’m sure its entirely thoughtful – ends up messy and, well, too clever for its own good. It’s in these moments that he comes across as a intensely creative frat boy setting off fireworks to get attention.
That said, there are some real standouts amongst the showpieces. Bull‘s Like a Version, Everybody Wants To Rule The World, takes his 80s aesthetic to new heights of soulfulness. His encore tracks, Something I Guess and Keep On Running are both flawlessly executed, and drive the audience mad into a frenzy. Leaving the venue I walk to my car with a skip in my step and the strange desire to listen to Space Oddity.