Once the fanbase is there, bands hit a stage where their every move is documented. Tweets are taken as gospel, every sentence a statement. Each millisecond of studio footage is a sign that something’s afoot. And for years now, new songs debuted live rack up the plays in the form of dodgy bootlegs. It’s crucial in building excitement, or a complete crux, depending on who you ask. But it’s silly to expect that snapshot rips won’t appear, or that they’ll be treated like a new song entirely.
Alvvays probably knew what they were doing, playing new songs during their first appearance at Coachella. Yes, this isn’t Radiohead emerging out of a cave to drop a new beat, but the Canadian group’s 2014 self-titled debut still picks up steam today. In the UK, they’ve gone from dingy basements to Shepherd’s Bush Empire, all within a couple of transatlantic trips. New material’s been drip-fed for a while now - they were playing fresh songs at London Scala, some eighteen months back - but few precious bootleg opps come bigger than Coachella.
There’s a predicament, here. Because obviously you’re supposed to take scrappy live recordings for what they are; interesting but false impressions of what to expect, the sort that should be discarded after a few hurried plays. But these new Alvvays songs - they’re in another league. Yes you can hear background claps and the odd ‘Woo!’ from a stranger, but the recordings are clean and the material is very, very impressive. Up there with the debut. Remarkable, given the hit-after-hit default of that first work. Molly Rankin should have run out of hooks by now, she crammed so many into those nine songs.
‘Not My Baby’’s been doing the rounds for a while. It’s rich, instant, rinsed in invention - exactly what an Alvvays song should be. Ridiculously new cut ‘Dreams’ is also promising. Glossy Chromatics-style synths open it up, before Rankin compares emotions to former U.S. Presidents.
“Any sign that Alvvays could retain the melody-crammed form of their debut was going to be exciting, and this goes way beyond that”
“You lived your life on a merry-go-round / Who builds a home just to let it fall down?” is already up there with her simplest, most affecting lyrics, and both songs complete a fascinating duo of markers for their next direction.
“We found the same tape machine that we did the first record on, so we’ve been writing, recording, for the last three weeks,” guitarist Alex O’Hanley told DIY back in August last year. “It’s tricky to do on the road - you can’t really kart around a 1983 reel-to-reel everywhere. We never really stop writing, though.” Eight months on, there’s every chance they’re putting the finishing touches to a new LP.
There’s no grand scrapping of the previous formula, on these new songs. But any sign that Alvvays could retain the melody-crammed form of their debut was going to be exciting, and this goes way beyond that.
Photo: Carolina Faruolo.