Having previously watched them aboard the good ship Thekla back in 2008, such was the dense compactness of a crowd sprinkled with folks vociferously calling for what was then the recently released single ‘I Love You Like A Madman,’ I was more than aware of the reality that a cult appreciation of The Wave Pictures existed in Bristol. Marrying Morrissey-esque absurdities and Jeffrey Lewis style quirky confessionals with catchy indie pop melodies, frontman David Tattersall has written a unique body of songs that perhaps are more deserving than their meagre placing within the realm of ‘cult’ followings.
So, five years later, it is no surprise to see The Louisiana crowd steadily swelling to capacity as the Leicestershire trio take to the stage. ‘Lisbon,’ a new song from their forthcoming album ‘City Forgiveness,’ kicks things off and its bluesy drum and bass groove forms a foundation on which Tattersall can showcase his adept lead guitar skills. ‘Sea Gulls’ and ‘Spaghetti,’ both from 2012s Long Black Cars and each containing 3 way vocals, are met by the audience with the enthusiasm of old favourites before Tattersall then introduces the band’s “secret weapon.” He jokes that, “Like Phil Collins, Karen Carpenter and that bloke from The Eagles,” The Wave Pictures also have a singing drummer. Jonny Helm then takes leave of his kit to stand centre stage in order to deliver, and then amusingly on a high note at one of the song’s choruses fail to deliver, the vocal to ‘Sleepy Eye.’
In his jokey reminiscences as to the absurdity of some of his early song titles (I Live For My Cheese Dreams, I Bit My Own Foot On The Way To The Land of Teeth), and his appreciation of the “Sensitive lighting man” who instantly dimmed the Louisiana lights upon introduction to ballad ‘New Skin,’ Tattersall is naturally funny and a charming companion throughout. In introducing new track ‘Before This Day,’ he tells the story of his first memory after moving house at the age of 4 and, around this period, of being first acquainted with bassist Franic Rozycki. The gorgeous melodic bounce of a Graceland-era Paul Simon style guitar riff then heralds in a beautifully wistful ode to childhood. Containing Alan Bennett-esque minutiae (“Mum steadies the ladder with a slippered foot”) and Tattersall’s very first memory of running “through grass that has grown high above my head,” it is an absorbing image of vicarious nostalgia and certainly the best received of the new songs.
The Wave Pictures are not all about Tattersall, of course. “Give Me a Second Chance” sees Helm take up lead vocal duties again while also providing some spirited backing vocals to the attractively jaunty three chord shuffle of new song ‘Missoula.’ ‘Little Surprise’ features a duel guitar and bass solo during which Rozycki spars proficiently with Tattersall at the lower and upper ends of his bass guitar. Eschewing his drum stool once more, Helm stands at the mic to perform ‘Now That You Are Pregnant’ and lines such as “I don’t need therapy because I’ve got cigarettes” produce a laugh from the crowd and reveal the idiosyncratic humour behind some of the band’s lyrics.
New track ‘The Ropes,’ with its menacing blues intro is far less quaint but, with the lyrics “I rummage in the door light with the other young Baboons,” linguistic quirkiness is never far away. While another new song that feels like a blues jam on which Tattersall can pepper his pentatonic noodlings, it is with the more familiar melodic, strummed indie of “Leave That Scene Behind” that The Wave Pictures are at their best. A further example of this is when the band return to the stage to perform an encore with “Stay Here and Take Care of The Chickens.” Featuring crowd participation of the backing vocal “Stay Here” at the song’s close, it is an indication of the easy bonhomie that has existed between band and audience all evening.
Compared to all the famous bands that have graced The Louisiana in their incipient stages (The Libertines played here in 2002, The Strokes in 2001 to name just two) a group like The Wave Pictures will clearly not be well remembered. However, after a fun hour of great songs, accomplished musicianship and affable charisma, it is a reminder of how great talent often exists away from the limelight and instead dwells somewhere within the shadows. And in the affections of a knowing few.
Words by Scott Hammond, picture by Conal Dougan.