Grouplove at The Academy, Dublin, 26th May 2014
Christian Zucconi is not Kurt Cobain. In fairness, he has never claimed to be. The likenesses are evident though; from the scraggy dyed hair (though Zucconi’s is pink where Cobain’s was blond); to the oversized, grungy jeans and t-shirt combo; to the style of bashing the guitar when the tempo kicks up. Even Zucconi’s exaggerated drawl of a singing voice seems like an homage to the former Nirvana frontman.
That’s probably where the comparisons end though. Cobain would never have let Hannah Hooper on stage, for example, if she was wearing the tight, full length, partially transparent bodysuit she takes to the Academy stage in. Cobain would probably say that it distracts from the music. Well, maybe he has a point…
Cobain would never pen a song as upbeat and catchy as Zucconi either, with opener I’m With You a prime example of Grouplove’s poppy charm. His voice seems a little off to begin with but, on Itchin on a Photgraph, he brings out that exaggeratedly pained squeak that the crowd have paid to see. (It’s probably right to call his voice divisive but those present have already made up their minds that it’s for them.)
There are other hints to Grouplove’s indie chops too. Ryan Rabin’s drumming really drives the music forward in a live context, especially on the ode to Pixies that is Raspberry. It’s, perversely, Grouplove at their most indie, yet their most derivative.
It is in the likes of Tongue Tied, a song sure to have the so-called ‘city fathers’ clucking their tongues and shouting mainstream, that are most Grouplove. Sure, it was used on a Coca-Cola ad (“Pfft, mainstream”) but there’s more to it than the xylophonic riff. Grouplove called their debut album ‘Never Trust A Happy Song’ and Tongue Tied is case in point. Zucconi’s pained screams mean that the pop is actually just indie in disguise, or vice versa.
Following it up with a cover of Beyoncé’s Drunk in Love, a cover that never really works, and Bitin’ The Bullet, a song desperately in need of a hook, kills the infectious mood caused by their biggest hit. It’s not the only time that the show calls for a stronger song that just isn’t there.
The trio of Shark Attack, Hippy Hill and Spun earlier in the show just lack the quality necessary to really keep the audience on the hook. Another album or two down the road Grouplove could have a show to be reckoned with. Closing numbers Ways to Go and Colours, not so secretly their best song, show that Grouplove can pen proper quality songs.
Their audience interactions are rather wooden throughout – especially considering four of the band’s five members have a go – but they play with an enthusiasm that bridges the gap to the audience. For now there’s a little too much filler. It’s not yet Nirvana.
Grouplove Photo Gallery
Photos: Aaron Corr