What’s the term for the Dublin music version of the literati? Whatever it is, that’s who’s out for We Cut Corners’ headline show in The Academy. Musicians, bloggers and photographers are in abundance, and yet the venue is hardly what you’d call full. With the release of their second album ‘Think Nothing’, the two-piece seemed to cement their reputation for a certain section of Irish society; those who play and write about music. But it seems crossover success still eludes them, something emphasised by the wide dimensions of the more populist-leaning Academy.
At any rate, it’s not the worst location for one of Delphi’s newest signings Jennifer Evans to show what she can do ahead of her November album release. She opens the show alone with a guitar and puts across a good impression. Clearly invested in her songs, you’d be inclined to keep an eye out for her upcoming release. Following Evans is Spies with Tandem Felix’s David Tapley accompanying on keys. Navigating the shoegazey territories of rock music, Spies are noticeably improving their live performances as they go. You feel their sound will be a regular occurrence in 2015.
When the main act arrives onstage, they do it in a typically no nonsense manner. Indeed, their arrival is so inconspicuous that the room barely registers that the show has begun. There’s a very distinct lack of nonsense around We Cut Corners generally. Their attitude is to just go in, crank up, and play. On the record this is an endearing quality about them. The songs they write are memorable, melodic, energetic and unmistakeably their own. In the live setting however they don’t seem to build on this, they just play their songs.
The missing element is the unexpected. We know from their records that they are great songwriters, great musicians and that Conall O’Breachain has a voice with an equally abundant amount of personality as pitch perfection. The live performance doesn’t build on this knowledge, accumulated from multiple album listens. They don’t capture the imagination onstage, which may explain the under-representation of the general public in the venue. For those of us already hooked on the sound, however, the evening has its moments.
Songs like This is Then are as appropriately well performed as you’d hope, and a potent rendition of the downbeat Dumb Blonde captures the quieter side of the We Cut Corners dynamic. It all ends up feeling cobbled together though, as if the order of the songs wasn’t arrived at by any decisive methodology. A performance of Blue feels like it’s missing something, even though it adds the Booka Brass Band in support. It’s another great song, but strangely unengaging here, with the Bookas pinned to the back of the stage, their brassiness largely inaudible over the crashing drums and distorted guitar.
You can’t help but feel that a lower ceiling, a tighter venue would accentuate the strengths of the We Cut Corners catalogue. In the Academy the songs just don’t feel flexible or expansive enough to fill the place. They may have produced one of the best albums of the year, but the live show doesn’t capture the sense of wonder and playfulness that comes through in the studio. A whole demographic of Dublin gig-goers goes unrepresented here, the ones who make Dublin a great place to attend a gig. We Cut Corners have the respect of their peers locked in, perhaps it’s time they stretched themselves and thought about engaging with the nonsense inherent to great rock music.