Guards at the Shacklewell Arms
With just one EP and one full-length album under their belt, New York indie three-piece Guards are really only starting up. In a surprisingly cool back room of the Shacklewell Arms in über-trendy Dalston, the band takes to the stage and gives the audience a punchy and uproarious set from beginning to end. While it’s fun, it quickly becomes formulaic.
The band has a packed, guitar-driven sound with pounding drums, giving off an energy that is not matched by the demure demeanours of the performers. Richie Follin, the lead, gets excited at points but the rest of the band just sort of sways gently. All the songs alternate between bassy verses with vocals and a bit of keys, building up to a full-force, cymbal-clad chorus. And they all end either in anthemic sing-alongs or indulgent guitar jams. It would probably suit a bigger venue, but in a small room, only about three quarters full, the impact is not as powerful as it should be – even if the crowd is supportive and grateful.
There is not much that separates each song – all have repetitive riffs, song structures and lyrics that are rousing but meaningless. The thunderous sound that emerges when the band is in full flow is not enough to stave off the feeling of familiarity: each song sounds similar to the last.
Follins has a nasal voice that is mostly tentative, but is used more fully in Coming True, sounding strained and desperate as he sings “What’s a boy supposed to do with a girl like you?” There seems to be an issue with microphones, too, because it is difficult to hear anything from co-vocalist Kaylie Church.
Despite the lack of variety, there are some great moments – the opening track Nightmare from their new album has roaring phaser effects, like some awakening beast. And during the penultimate song, I See It Coming from self-titled EP Guards, all the lights are switched off and in the darkness is the stripped sound of just an urgent guitar riff, tension mounting, until everything hits: the lights flash, the full band re-emerges with a final, piercing burst of energy and Follin drags his guitar across the cymbals, then presents it to the audience like a trophy.
Guards’ driving festival sound is great, but it lacks depth. This band does not do quite enough to stir the soul on a damp October night.
Photos: Kaetlin Fehl
For further information and future events visit Guards’ website here.
Watch the video for Ready to Go here: