There were million-and-one places to find catharsis at indie-rock five-piece Alvvays‘ rip-roaring set at The Glass House in Pomona on Friday night. There was the spiraling lyricism of lead singer Molly Rankin (patron saint of the yearning antisocialite) — delivered via her dulcet, acrobatic croons — conjuring up fables of romantic melancholy and existential strife. There was the live wire of riffs that warble, crackle, and burst from Alec O’Hanley’s guitar that have the tendency to turn the blood electric, igniting Rankin’s words in conjunction with her rhythm guitar and Abbey Blackwell’s bass. Even the crisp, rotund hammerings of Sheridan Riley (drums) and flourishes of Kerri MacLellan (keyboards) found as much of the limelight as their lush backing vocals.
Live, Alvvays channeled all their melancholic frustrations into rabid kineticism. From the anthemic tumble of jangly guitars that duel on “After The Earthquake” and “Not My Baby” to The Go-Go’s-esque elastic rhythms of “Hey.” It’s the kind of head-banging, raucousness that’s nigh impossible to shake, even more so once Rankin’s sublimely lamenting and sharp poetics have their hooks in you (“You can write it down with a fountain pen / Close your eyes and then count to ten / You can tell your friends that I don’t make sense / And I don’t care”). Dealing with insufferable people (typically men) in an equally insufferable world is a mood that hums throughout many an Alvvays song. Including within the spacey, digitally-otherworldly rumbler “Very Online Guy” or on the fed-up rouser “Pomeranian Spinster.”
But Rankin and company are no less potent when they slow things down. And betwixt their lightning rod sequences of virulent riffs and pummeling sonics, Alvvays waxed nostalgia and woe by pulling out a few jams from their first album. Gloaming guitars sound like fog horns amidst the vintage transmissions and swooning melodics of “Archie, Marry Me” and “Party Police” — a track that still contains one of the best goose-bump-inducing Alvvays moments (i.e. a sublime voice crack on its refrain).
There is perhaps no greater champion of the sullen, those weighed down by life who find themselves either drowning or floating against their wills. It’s a sentiment best articulated on one of the night’s final songs, “Saved By a Waif.” Between confounding parental fantasies of her becoming a doctor and wrestling aimlessly with her aimlessness, she howls: “Say something, waste something, change your life.” Doomed to exist, Rankin and company angle their ire into something propulsively emotive, like the elated highest arc of an off-the-rails nose-dive to nowhere.
Slow Pulp opened the night for Alvvays, filling The Glass House with their gleaming and hook-filled shoegaze creations. Centered around the glowing vocals of Emily Massey, the band played a number of songs from their 2020 debut album Moveys. Amidst walls of grungy guitars and shuddering percussion drops, Slow Pulp was true to its name. Pumping out revolutions of droning lo-fi dreaminess made deliciously dense by their tangled sonics that appears on songs like their recent single “High.”
Words and photos by Steven Ward