It always cheers me up to see people in more mind-numbingly dull jobs than mine. Accountants for instance or tollbooth clerks or fourth officials at soccer matches. As of tonight I will add ‘bass player in 2:54’ to that sad list. After a weekend of listening to Wild Nothing’s freely frolicking bass, it’s no surprise that the confrontation with a bass guitar that goes dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum for the length of an entire song feels like being hit with a dippy stick. When the next song and the seven songs after that go dum-dum-dum-dum-dum as well, I’m pretty sure I’d prefer a job checking the studs of substitute players.
2:54 are sisters Hannah and Collete Thurlow plus a two-man rhythm section. Two minutes and fifty four seconds into the song A History For Bad Men by the Melvins there is a specific drum roll that inspired the London siblings for their band name. The Fuzz didn’t see the band perform at Eurosonic last January, but those who did where quite appreciative. The band’s self-titled debut album, released in May, received mixed reviews. NME called it: ‘an album that rings with the honed precision and craftsmanship of a job thoroughly done.’ Whilst Pitchfork wrote that band knows how to make a good first impression but not a lasting one. Indiefuzz decided that there were more interesting albums to review and if it wasn’t for the baby stork causing Yeasayer to cancel Monday’s concert, I would have happily missed another live performance by 2:54. This, of course, is the ideal scenario for being pleasantly surprised and so of to Bitterzoet I went. Heigh ho.
If, like me, you have an allergy for bands that cannot think of another way to express their dark and heavy disposition than by playing dark and heavy music, 2:54 will not instantly appeal to you. The band’s main influences consist of stoner metalheads like Them Crooked Vultures and Queen of the Stone Age on the one end and 80’s dream pop acts like Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie & the Banshees on the other. Their music has the same wavering circularity as the XX but is way more epic and therefore less intimate. Many of the songs on their debut have the same meditative drone as Warpaint but they are less playful and folksy.
In case of 2:54 breaking through to a wider audience bass player Joel Porter and drummer Alex Robbins will enjoy the same degree of animosity as the members of Oasis whose surname wasn’t Gallager. Both musically and visually they supply the décor for the Thrulow sister to dimly shine on. If you listen even closer you could conclude that Collete Thurlow’s drowsy and often incomprehensible vocals too are part of the décor. The main character in 2:54’s play is Hannah Thurlow’s sprightly guitar. Sometimes a concert lets you see things you hadn’t heard before.
It’s not only that guitar that’s saving 2:54 from being a mere manifestation of gloomy indulgence. Despite the restrictions of their chosen genre the compositions are catchy and strangely uplifting. Songs like Cold Front and Creepy posses a certain disarming youthfulness that gives me pleasant flashbacks to my own discovery of musical identity. Despite sounding much more mature than their age, it’s this downplayed innocence that gives 2:54 an edge. At the Bitterzoet it also expresses itself during the interludes between songs, when Collete Thurlow utters timid ‘thank you’’s in neat private school English. They’re just nice girls with a preference for repetitive and humorless music.