Blaenavon The Bullingdon, Oxford 23/5/16
There’s certainly a very in Vogue sound coming out of the UK at the moment which incorporates an indie aesthetic and festival friendly choruses with a slight lean to shoegaze guitar textures. Blaenavon are another band that follow this ethos, sticking closely to a slightly formulaic song writing approach, but much to their credit have got mouths wagging and heads turning as they are set to deliver their first full length studio album later this year.
As Blaenavon move through a set of punchy, galvanised material we are treated to a charming and efficient type of songwriting which never deviates a great deal from tune to tune but has enough prowess and texture to hold attention and maintain momentum. Ben Gregory, lead singer and lead guitarist, has an impressive habit of using abstract chord patterns, his fingers seemingly having the elasticated ability to stretch up and down the fret board to find a note, and with a robust, distinct voice, there’s a lot going on musically despite them being a three piece. However, you do feel these are one of the bands who would really benefit from a fourth member, as with a lot of the guitar work being played well up the neck, and the bass and drums providing the low end, there is a little emptiness in the middle ground which compromises the richness of sound Blaenavon are able to produce.
At times the band seem to lack that cutting edge or the ability to take risks and although there are huge pressures on young, up and coming acts to create something which is all inclusive, there’s the overwhelming feeling that if they were prepared to stray from the beaten track a little and embrace a less obvious songwriting framework, they may find something which marks them as a real individual act. The musicianship is certainly there as is the ear for melody but as of this moment they can be shepherded into a pen with a number of other bands who are doing the circuits at this point in time. While its important to create a buzz with songs centred heavily around thumping chorus lines, there needs to be something which gives Blaenavon their own idiosyncrasies that keeps them one step ahead of the other bands touting the same style.
It is however so refreshing to see these young and talented acts pick up the mantle and take the UK’s guitar scene in its next direction and Blaenavon are among the best in this particular new wave of British indie rock. Ben Gregory certainly has real aptitude and direction in terms of what he wants out of his band and it will be fascinating to see how he develops and evolves as the band mature.