Deliberate underachievement and a dubious work ethic: it’s very difficult indeed to attach stereotypical shorthand for slacker-ish indie rock to the Wave Pictures.
The decidedly low-key Loughborough trio – expanded to a four-piece tonight with the addition of a percussionist – have maintained a fearsome rate of production since their 2003 debut that would be instantly recognisable to their ever-industrious forebears from when bands were expected to churn out several albums per year. In 2018 alone, the band put out two albums, and a new track aired at the end of tonight’s enthusiastically received set suggests there‘s more to come soon.
It looks like hard work is bearing fruit. Guitarist and singer David Tattersall jokes that the small crowds who had turned up for the band’s last ten Brudenell shows have all decided to turn up at the same time tonight, congratulating us for our coordination skills.
Some newcomers in attendance tonight have possibly been attracted by the regular cheerleading the Wave Pictures have been receiving on BBC Radio 6. The real credit for tonight’s densely populated venue belongs to the band’s increasing ability to shape their ramshackle charm into increasingly well-executed chunks of sound.
The furious productivity – 18 albums, countless singles and EPs – has in the past suggested that there’s little time to consider whether the more whimsical offerings will be palatable to anyone who’s yet to fully subscribe to the cult of the Wave Pictures. More recent records – especially last year’s beautifully overcast and contemplative Brushes with Happiness – benefit from more focus and (a swearword in the classic indie rock lexicon) consistent ambition in the songwriting and presentation departments.
That’s not to say the trio have turned into steely professionals. Drawn from all stages of the bands discography, tonight’s spirited set – interspersed by Tattersall’s wry banter – often resembles a jovial jam session, albeit one where the participants are clearly following some sort of a plan, loose as it may at times be. Whilst references to the Velvet Underground, Neil Young, classic rock’s riff worship, vintage indie, West African/tropical guitar arts and even Jamaican music glide by, Tattersall welds it all together with his idiosyncratic, witty and winningly offbeat lyrics that ricochet unexpectedly between warm humor and poignant emotion and frequent outbreaks of guitar heroism.
It’s a miracle Tattersall can keep a straight face whilst peeling off one of the fluid, stinging and never self-indulgent solos that pepper the performance: it seems against nature to play with such passion without pulling some classic gurning guitar faces. Tattersall’s jaw-dropping shredding is the most sparkling gem in a set that is likely to have converted curious onlookers into committed fans.