Live Review: Papa Vs Pretty + Battleships + Valar – Oxford Art Factory (25.09.13)

Papa vs Pretty have been smashing live music venues around the country with their exceptional performances since 2006. Despite the fact that they’ve been knuckling down on recording with few live appearances if any recently, they’ve managed to come out of their cave to launch their new single ‘My Life Is Yours’ from their forthcoming second LP White Deer Park.

Fellow Sydney artists Valar opened the proceedings tonight and immediately they’re akin to a more shoe-gazey version of Radiohead. There’s a lot of long droney guitars and some subtle electronica going on and lead singer James Blackwood even sounds a little bit like Thom Yorke. The only downside is they lack the energy and variety in their songs for them to stand up against the bands that follow their set. But as a young band, we can only expect this to improve as time goes on!

After what seemed like a fairly lengthy break, Battleships then entered onto the stage and kicked things up a few notches. Frontman Jordan Sturdee commands the stage both in presence and vocally with a powerful almost-falsetto that washes over the room. Their no-nonsense indie-rock with some brit-pop tendencies is evident in tracks like ‘No Words’ and ‘In Retrospect’ as they seamlessly blend hard and fast choruses into wistful melodic verses. Drummer Dan McMurray gets to shine on ‘As You’d Begun’ with some inventive drum rolls and beats sitting nicely under Nato Hannaford and Sturdee’s shared guitar work. Their latest single ‘Coming Back To You’ is gorgeously eerie and also powerfully emotive and they manage to captivate the crowd with it. I’m definitely a convert to the Battleships camp.

The lads from Papa Vs Pretty then graced the Oxford Art Factory stage and managed to maintain the explosive momentum for some of their surprisingly short set. Crowd favourites like ‘Heavy Harm’ and ‘One Of The Animals’ and ‘Honey’ really got the audience writhing and moving around. But there was a bit of a lull during the middle of the set as they slowed the pace down with ‘Bitter Pill’ and a couple of other slower numbers and strangely it noticeably detracted from the atmosphere. It did give frontman Thomas Rawle a chance to show off his voice which reminds me a lot of Ben Byrne from Starsailor. I got the distinct sense that these weren’t their stronger songs so it was better to sandwich them in the middle of the set and allow some downtime. The crowd was definitely eager to hear some of their new material which will feature on their forthcoming new LP in the new year and just before the band finished up we were treated to their fresh track ‘My Life Is Yours’ and it (like Valar’s songs) has a little bit of Radiohead meets some of the more soaring stylings of Elbow as it builds to this overpowering crescendo and Rawle’s band mates all come crashing in together in a coordinated finale.

It has happened on odd occasion for me that the support act usurps the limelight from the headliner. That’s not to detract from Papa Vs Pretty’s performance in any way, it was obvious that the majority of the room was there to support them and their shiny new single (as well as their upcoming record). However I was pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastic the crowd was towards Battleships and their performance was solid and assured. It’s good to see a fresh band starting to make waves at that local level already. Pretty certain there’s big things in store for both acts in the coming weeks and months.


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Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.