They are all so young. I am stood in the back room of the Shacklewell Arms, feeling old. A motley crew of about 40 people watch Carnivores set up the stage. They’re late, but it isn’t their fault. A disappointing turnout means the promoter has shifted the night back to give more people an opportunity to turn up. The bands are given the thumbs up to start and, sweetly, ask us to move in closer. The young people and I oblige. The bass kicks in, there is a first snap of drums and all of a sudden I’ve stopped nursing my beer. I’m hooked.
Alternately raucous and seductively dreamy, on record Carnivores are great, but live they play pleasantly close to the edge. The loose but powerful drumming of Ross Politi, the not-quite harmonising vocals and reverb washed everything combine to give a sense of precariousness; a feeling that everything could fall apart at any minute, they are genuinely exciting to watch.
The set tonight draws mainly from last year’s If I’m Ancient and recent excellent (and free!) Chandeliers EP. Showcasing wonderfully the ease with which Carnivores swing between reverb drenched dark psychedelic pop and sweaty, swampy rock and roll. They trade in such contrasts; the deceptively lovely interaction of girl/boy vocal interplay between Caitlin Lang and guitarist Nathaniel Higgins, disguises the dark and threatening lyrical content that lurks just beneath the surface. Lang’s keys sometimes wash across the room, drenching everything in an ominous tension. At other times they are more direct, stabbing menacingly to punctuate the songs.
Philip Frobos’ propulsive bass lines are crisp, acting as an anchor amongst all the woozy reverb and keeping everything moving along nicely. When he takes vocal duty it tends to be for the more frenetic numbers. Tonight he stands front and centre, which mean that in this small venue he is surrounded. His eyes hunt and his vocals are confrontational, which isn’t to say they are in anyway standoffish, these guys are here for a good time, and when they talk to the crowd it is clear they want us to have a good time too.
They keep us flying by the seat of our pants for the whole show, with an uncanny ability to change pace, tone, and mood and yet still sound exactly like themselves. It’s a real shame that more people didn’t make it to see them, but touring with Black Lips will introduce them to a deservedly bigger audience. Those of us who made the show had a real treat, and I leave the venue with a spring of a much younger man in my step.
This post originally appeared on Spoonfed on 2 June 2011.