Ought in The Workman’s Club, Dublin, on November 17th 2014
Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. It almost seems that guitarist and vocalist Tim Beeler, with a smile and sideways glance, challenges the listener with this statement over the course of Ought’s debut album ‘More Than Any Other Day’. That release was a giddy re-imagining of post-punk, channelling Tom Verlaine, Mark E. Smith, David Byrne and a wealth of spikey guitar bands, breathing fresh air into a much-mined fissure.
The Montreal-based quartet have been on the circuit since the record’s release – quite the opposite of tonight’s support, who have been sorely missed on Dublin’s live scene. Tonight is Jogging’s first show of 2014, with the trio spending the year concentrating on writing and dabbling in at least one side project we know of in Women’s Christmas. As such, tonight’s set is mainly new songs.
While seemingly not as abrasive as the ‘Take Courage’ material, the dual vocal assault from Darren Craig and Ronan Jackson is undiminished; the latter’s is the more aggressive, still audible as he steps back from the mic to howl a refrain. The less-punk-more-rock set and Minutemen-redolent intro to their final number seems to point to another stylistic progression for the band, as was the previous record from their debut – here’s hoping this blew the cobwebs off for a few more live shows in the near future.
The three measured notes that begin Today, More Than Any Other Day silence the gathered crowd as Ought take over and the song slowly gathers itself into the raucous rendering everyone expects. Beeler seems to take his cue from the Jarvis Cocker school of stage theatrics, shimmying between Matt May and Brian Stidworthy on keys and bass respectively, punctuating barked pronouncements with the flick of a wrist or a snap of the neck.
The mid-section of the set feels that bit more improvisational – Beeler and drummer Tim Keen spar through Pleasant Heart, while Forgiveness seems to spring from the discordant noise and sporadic drum spatters that characterise New Calm Pt. 3 from their latest ‘Once More With Feeling’ EP. Keen brandishes a violin with one free hand, adding to the layers of whines and feedback as the song toys with tempo. Gemini turns into a rhythm section-driven two-note chant at its extended outro, and a new one in Beautiful Blue Skies winds things down; as the band relax into a slow groove towards the coda it’s as if they are about to settle in for the long haul until Beeler announces, “One, two, three…kill it”.
Beeler’s earlier question “Has anyone heard our album?” is met with a rowdy affirmation, but even those who haven’t yet had the experience will be struck by its familiarity. It’s unfair to call Ought’s output derivative, so adroit are they in manoeuvring a song through its directional changes, and it’s most definitely in front of a crowd that things pay off. Their many influences can clearly be picked from the material, but Ought’s flair in the retelling is undeniable.