Live Review: Joe Lally, Girls Names, Comply Or Die

12 02 2010

**As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – Nov 2009**

Joe Lally is best known as the bassist in Fugazi. Fugazi! It’s not often someone from such an influential act rolls in to town. It’s a pretty big deal and testament to the calibre of acts that tonight’s promoters, Strange Victory, regularly provide us with.

Comply Or Die are up first, and despite what can only be described as an intimate crowd, they give it stacks. It’s nice to see a band that give it their all, no matter what. Musically, they’re a strange beast – basically a post-hardcore band, loud and heavy, layering and building to crescendos of noise – but it’s more raw, more punk; the guitar sound is pure grunge. It’s a unique approach, but it sort of comes across like Nirvana attempting Mogwai covers, it’s just not quite right. Comply Or Die have the potential to be a great punk band, if they cut the songs down and keep things simple. At the minute, the songs drag; they’re not intricate enough to wow technically or engrossing enough to offer any kind of emotional investment, too many ideas being crammed into each song.

Girls Names are next on the bill, a two-piece who describe themselves as “disposable noise pop”. It’s hard to argue with that. They sound like Morrissey singing Beach Boys songs in the shower. The vocal effect genuinely makes them sound like they’re singing through a giant toilet. The bass drum seems to be constantly trying to escape throughout the set, and I sort of want to join it.

Joe Lally is here to steer us back on track. He says a few words, joking that he “can’t see the dots too well” on his fretboard, we might have to forgive him for being sloppy. He’s accompanied tonight by Elisa Abela on guitar and Ricardo Lagomasino on drums. They’re a super tight outfit; the dots aren’t an issue, Joe could obviously play with his eyes closed. And his hands tied behind his back. Maybe.

To say that Lally’s solo efforts come across like Fugazi-lite would be to do him a disservice, but it wouldn’t be too far off the mark. The trademark Fugazi basslines are there, driving the songs along in that customary funk-punk groove, but while Fugazi would occasionally crank the volume, Joe has a more measured approach; there’s a jazzy-blues vibe, his hushed vocals minimal but with a sense of rhythm that accompanies the music perfectly without ever being the focus.

Like A Baby is one of the more minimalist offerings, but a definite highlight in the set. We’re also treated to a new song, tentatively titled Let It Burn, which Joe introduces with these words: “if they tell you that you’re being too kind, and you’re going to be defeated, just be yourself anyway”.

The set ends not on the stage, but with an acapella rendition of Sons And Daughters, in the middle of the floor. It’s utterly mesmerising, a truly special moment, and one which is underlined by Joe’s heartfelt thanks to those in attendance: for coming tonight, for following his bands throughout his career, and for being actively involved in the music community, because that’s what it’s all about – community.

Tonight has served to reaffirm that Joe Lally is not only an amazingly talented musician, but an unassuming, instantly likeable, and utterly genuine man as well. It makes a refreshing change to see that someone so revered is still so humble.