There’s a certain satisfaction one feels when watching a band step out of its niche. Any band worth a damn will naturally begin to bend, modify, pervert and eventually break their respective mould. Their creative progress becomes unhinged and fluid, moving like a newly healed limb removed from a cast. With any luck, they’re stronger in the places that were broken. A recent example: Arctic Monkeys casting off the NME-held tether of their former indie-by-numbers sound on last album Humbug.
An even more recent example occurred tonight at the Ding Dong Lounge, some time after eleven o’clock.
The inherent problem with a niche is the total apathy it carries with it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that no one cares about a band. Instead, with the right niche everyone will claim to be a fan – it’s entirely street cred contingent. It’s tantamount to a write-off, really; people won’t really listen to your band so much as they’ll like telling people they do. Rock writers get off easy, avoiding the usual job of over-analysing songs to within an inch of their depth.
It would be so easy to get lazy with the Black Ryder. Two former members of the Morning After Girls get slots supporting Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Brian Jonestown Massacre while clad in ubiquitous black denim and leather. It’s the ultimate neo-shoegaze orchestration. It’s too bad they happen to be very talented or I’d get out my ‘ethereal guitar layers’-stamp and give them a B-.
Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride, the Black Ryder’s debut, is everything you’d expect from such a band. It’s a vast tableau encompassing brush strokes of My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mazzy Star and Spacemen 3. The standard wall of guitar noise is there as well as the whole vocals-as-instruments shtick. But surprisingly, there’s also a serious ear for melody, controlled production, excellent band dynamic and great songs. And it’s steeped in Aussie pub rock spirit that makes you feel completely at home. A dense collection of jams by any standards – call me a fan. However, the band’s last Melbourne show at the Tote didn’t do it for me the way the album did.
‘I wasn’t a fan of the Tote show’ guitarist Scott Von Ryper confesses to me after the show tonight and I don’t argue. The last hour was a different story altogether. The Black Ryder have stepped out of the echoplex and into the garage. The fact that their new drummer, a friend of the bass player, had previously only played with them for a total of two hours only helps the band’s sound. The bass player constantly leans over to the drummer to give him his cues but the two hours worth of rehearsals have paid off.
This is a different band in more ways than a simple personnel change though; personal favourite ‘Gone Without Feeling’ has been rearranged and fleshed out with added groove. It’s an Antipodean nod to Stooges Fun House thickness. ‘Grass’ was my introduction to the band some years back and I didn’t see it for more than a nice jingle for a Nike commercial. My opinion changes as it sets the crowd into as much of a frenzy as hipsters can manage. The band has turned the Ding Dong Lounge into an experiment in claustrophobia. The song is now a tubular conduit to the Vauxhall heart of that universal droning that every kid with a Fender Jaguar and a copy of Psychocandy is chasing.
Everyone’s favourite whiskey-soaked duet ‘Sweet Come Down’ naturally has its place in the middle of the set list. Aimee Nash stoically tunes her guitar as Von Ryper keeps his eyes trained on the far end of the venue. It’s a rather poignant image, as though a split screen has emerged between the two that traps each member in their individual despondency.
The set ends in that seamless embrace of sensory disconnect and elucidation, expanding the proverbial narrow chinks of the cavern.
It seems that now is the time for the Black Ryder to begin working against their instincts. Where the show at the Tote was an attempt to capture the verve of the album in a live context, tonight’s show was something different entirely. Here’s hoping the band bring the vitality of their live performance into the studio for their next record. Regardless, leaving the Morning After Girls is the best thing these two ever did.