2:54 w/Widowspeak, The Denzels, Indian Rebound
Monday, June 11
Better than: A Buffy The Vampire Slayer marathon.
There aren’t nearly as many female serial killers as male one out prowling for victims, at least among the notorious ones. And while the sister duo Hannah and Colette Thurlow, founding members of rising British band 2:54, are by all accounts well-balanced in temperament and harmonious with the world, there are some allusive signs.
They did take their name from the Melvins song “A History of Bad Men”—specifically the moment in the song when the drums get drastically heavy, even barbaric. And throughout their caliginous, muscular, anthemic self-titled full-length, the two hand over the keys and let their dark passenger drive—dwelling largely in cavernous shadows, howling and chugging aggressively through the night, maybe mourning a freshly eviscerated former lover, maybe just singing the blues.
Last night at Mercury Lounge, the sisters stepped into the light, if just barely, for an eye-opening headlining performance. 2:54 boasts a grandiose aggressive edge that’s less like falling down a rabbit hole and more akin to drilling down through the Earth’s strata. When the band played “Scarlet”—one of the album’s finest tracks—the drums were equally deep and piercing, and the grinding of textural guitar muscle felt like sandpaper. But there’s lightness in the instrumentation as well, thanks to Hannah’s melodic twinklings and Colette’s otherworldly voice, which makes the vocal lines both catchy and morose. The ascending melodies in “Revolving” were as sultry as they were enigmatic, and the way they were paired with sparse, jangly guitars that rose steadily to a cacophonous, dire boiling point could have made Kevin Shields take notes.
Like most bands from abroad, the group comes to America with an innate tightness and prowess. They didn’t have the trepidation or insecurities of a band with such relatively little experience and work under their belt. Lead singer Colette was a force on stage, crouching and squirming and kicking the air even as the delicate qualities of her voice urged listeners into a false sense of security. Lead guitarist Hannah was even more impressive, quietly expanding on her textural creations from the album with buzzy, shredding and powerful crescendos. The boys in the back largely stayed out of the way, pounding along relatively frill-free while still forming an unflappable, eager framework.
At moments, 2:54’s music seemed a bit too focused on tugging at and wrenching out emotions. The gloom became so overpowering that individual songs became harder to distinguish. Their debut could definitely be the soundtrack for a teen vampire movie, filled with angst, perceived loneliness, and unbridled horniness. But as Colette hinted at with her smiles during songs, 2:54 have plenty of warmth hiding around waiting to break free—and perhaps just a few demons waiting on the excise line, even if they aren’t ready to admit it just yet.
Critical bias: Was naming the band with a number a calculated ploy to get to the front of record bins and iTunes playlists? Perhaps we’ll never know.
Overheard: “Widowspeak has that good stuff.”—audience member comparing the band’s drowsy, low energy set to disorienting, high-grade opium.
Random notebook dump: If 2:54 showed how to do dark, stormy music the right way, openers Widowspeak at times veered towards the opposite. The band’s blackness was far more languid and simplistic—and, consequently, trivial. Their lead guitarist’s creativity shone, though. Turn him up higher next time!