Lucius The Workman's Club James Murray-5843-banner

Lucius at The Workman’s Club, Saturday 19th April 2014

It’s a Brooklyn invasion! If you weren’t paying attention when San Fermin dropped by our humble island nation earlier in the week, and when Lucius knocked about the capital on Saturday – first in Tower Records for Record Store Day then a headlining gig in the Workman’s – you’ve certainly been missing out on what that fine musical borough has to offer. These acts are not just diverse, but enviously original in their musical outlook. As something of a musical haven of its own, Dublin ought to be paying attention to any Brooklynites who happen to land in our clubs and pubs for a bit of tuning up and turning on.

And speaking of the wonderful world of contemporary Irish music the endearingly unique folk stylings of Twin Headed Wolf offer the perfect opening to the show. Like the headline act they feature two lead female vocals but they also feature an assortment of unusual instruments and techniques to augment their quirks. Rather than seeming gimmicky however these little touches are remarkably compelling, giving the impression that the experience of a Twin Headed Wolf set is best appreciated in the live setting.

The three male members of Lucius arrive first clad in Adam West-era Batman villain striped jumpers, and the two female members arrive once the music has commenced – a cover of The Beatles’ Free as a Bird – looking something like if Andy Warhol directed a sci-fi film. The sixties weigh heavily on the music of Lucius if the dress and the psychedelic artwork of their album don’t give that away. But unlike the cynicism of Metronomy’s recent mining of sixties tropes (a miserably ironic “shoop-doop-doop-ahh” here and a sickeningly repetitive lead single chorus there) Lucius actually take the joy of the music of The Beatles and The Beach Boys and remake it in their own image.

This manifests itself in the minimal-sounding but sprawling-looking setup the five-piece use. With four members having access to percussion of some description, two electric guitars commanding the melody section, two rarely utilised keyboards doing a sprinkling here and there and a full five-piece vocal setup, their sound is a wild exciting exploration of a very small range of tools. The sound in question is an exploration of the possibilities of rhythm, melody and volume, with polyrhythmic drums and certain guitar notes regularly dropping into unusual places, and the vocals ranging from the two lead singers singing calmly to the five-piece going full on Aretha.

A few times during the set, particularly during songs like Turn It Around and Don’t Just Sit There, you’d catch yourself thinking “jayzus, they sound like they should be topping the charts”. But once the one-two total knock out of How Loud Your Heart Gets and the poppy blues of Go Home (yeah, poppy blues), you realise they’re just too good to be that popular. The former track is taken to its percussive-melodic-voluminous limit, at which point Holly and Jess stand at either side of the stage and let the guitars do their thing for a while. Then the song comes back and by Christ if it isn’t twice as brilliant as it was before. Go Home then perfectly expresses this musical style, with a quiet rhythm tapping away, then stopping while the singers sing “go home” at the top of their lungs, and a single drum-beat nearly knocks the speakers off the wall.

They finish their set with the visually/aurally/soulfully arresting Genevieve before disappearing and returning, treading into the crowd to perform an acoustic Two of Us on the Run. Without the distortion of amplification we get a wildly satisfying opportunity to hear just how well the five-piece harmonies gel and it – alongside the closing cover of the Paul McCartney-penned Goodbye – is the perfect way to the end the gig. Everything about the set works; the music, the look, the tone. It’s an unabashed musical optimism performed with real passion and good humour. Lucius are a great musical act and put on a consistently brilliant, good mood-inducing live show. Criticisms: none.

Lucius Photo Gallery

Photos: James Murray