Real Estate at Whelan’s, Dublin, 27th May, 2014

Released in February of this year Real Estate’s latest album, ‘Atlas’, has been widely heaped with praise. That critical acclaim has begun to translate into commercial success too as evidenced by Tuesday’s sold out show in Whelan’s. Originally scheduled for the Workman’s Club, it was relocated to the bigger venue due to popular demand. With expectations quite high, the New Jersey five-piece impressed rather than mesmerised the expectant crowd.

Unsurprisingly, most of tonight’s set is drawn from Atlas. The opening salvo is in fact entirely drawn from the album. The instrumental April’s Song is the first song of the night, four minutes of chiming dream pop that’s made to be listened to under hazy sunshine. It’s followed by two more cuts off the new album; Crime and Past Lives. Both adhere to the same setup as the opener with Matt Mondaline’s exquisite lead guitar shimmering over simply strummed chords. It all feels very carefree and soothing, the exact opposite of the band’s strikingly forlorn lyrics. “Toss and turn all night/don’t know how to make this right/crippling anxiety” singer Martin Courtney croons on Crime.

The opening trio of songs certainly sets the template for how the rest of the gig will run with the band rarely deviating from their favoured soft, surf rock sound. The lack of variety is grating, the likes of Easy and Municipality sounding too similar to what’s gone before. Just when you think the gig is going south, the band change up enough to keep things interesting. Green Aisles comes with some much needed kick, not quite Motorhead levels of noise but enough to break the lull. They are quick to revert back to type though, and while Primitive is more of the same it’s impossible not to appreciate its blissed out vibes.

Other stand-outs include the excellent It’s Real. As ‘heavy’ as the band gets, this one has shades of Pavement and offers a rare glimpse of them outside of their comfort zone. It’s followed by the equally brilliant Horizon, another number on which Mondaline steals the show with his masterful lead playing. For every song as good as Horizon or It’s Real though, there’s a couple of distinctly average tracks. Certainly, as the gig draws to its conclusion, it’s only the wistful, Wonder Years that stands out.

Retuning for a three song encore, the band finish with a flourish. Suburban Beverage harks back to the band’s early days when their lyrics were as carefree as their music. The chorus “Budweiser and Sprite, do you feel alright? delivered with super cool nonchalance. Talking Backwards and The Bends follow, amongst the strongest tracks drawn from the album. Both are excellent although there’s more than one person in attendance questioning whether both were played earlier in the night, such is the level of similarity between songs.

A fine gig, this could have been an excellent one with a bit more variety. While the band are outstanding at what they do, their reluctance to move out of their comfort zone is frustrating. If you like your indie music lo-fi and soothing then they are certainly worth checking out. They return to Ireland once again in October upgrading to The Academy this time. Ireland it seems can’t get enough of Real Estate at the minute. And how could that ever go wrong…

Real Estate Photo Gallery

Photos: Aisling Finn