Angus Finlayson 29/04/2009
The last time I saw Jeniferever live, circumstances meant that I had to leave halfway through. At the time, this felt like an act of heart-wrenching cruelty akin to taking a child from its mother, or separating the homeless guy on my street from his treasured can of Special Brew. So tonight - while I am (as always) a cold, hard journalistic machine, stopping at nothing in pursuit of objectivity - a small part of me is really looking forward to this gig. I even get to the Water Rats early, just on the off-chance that the schedule's been moved forward by 90 minutes (I know, I'm a fretter).
This is fortunate, as it allows plenty of time to enjoy supports Caesura, a a fresh-faced quintet who deliver soft-edged guitar music which would slide nicely onto the roster of the post-hardcore Big Scary Monsters (in fact, they featured on a BSM compilation last year). The band's mellow chord progressions and earnest lyrics are injected with just the right dose to keep things fresh, whilst the occasional U-turn in mood helps to stave off any sense of cliché. This is by no means a new formula, the occasional forlorn marching beat or glistening guitar chord reveals a debt to tonight's headliners, and frontman James Moss clearly subscribes to the Secondsmile/Meet Me in St. Louis school of emotive singing. Nonetheless, Caesura pull it off better than most, which is something to be commended as well as enjoyed.
The 40 minute set is well received by a crowd seeming to consist largely of the band's friends, rather than die-hard gig-goers. Don't get me wrong, a great atmosphere is always a bonus, but this backfires slightly as Jeniferever struggle to command the attention of their audience. Mildly intrusive chatter aside, the Swedish five-piece get right down to the business of shattering preconceptions with - wait for it - a guitar solo. Yes, you read that correctly: Martin Sandström of Jeniferever, playing a guitar solo. The result doesn't really weave into the ambient textures we've come to love - and everybody's relieved when it's over - but it signals a sea change in a sound which has previously been so distinctive, and bids us all take notice.
Further evidence of a new musical spirit soon begins to surface. Apart from a couple of forays into first album material, the hour-long set consists entirely of tracks from the post-rockers' recent sophomore release Spring Tides. This is comparatively upbeat music, drumbeats are busier, guitar lines more raw, and there's a degree of immediacy creeping in to the band's usually glacial pacing. Not only that, but elfin frontman Kristofer Jönson gradually abandons his ethereal whisper in favour of more strident vocals, a venture which doesn't quite pay off as his voice begins to lose power and accuracy, ending the set with a few bizarre Black Francis screams which seem totally out of place.
The sad fact is that, like Jönson's voice, the band doesn't seem cut out for this newfound intensity. Their trademark web of translucent guitars underpinned with distant, pulsing beats is undermined by an attempt at a harder-edged sound, and the result - while still distinctively Jeniferever - isn't as effective as it could be. Fortunately, Bowie is on hand for the encore, as a cover of Ashes to Ashes closes the night. Here, finally, the Swedes show us that they can make something hot-blooded sound beautiful. Now they just need to manage it with their own songs.