Where Dua Lipa has overt reverb, Jaguar Jonze remains inert, skeletal and clean

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Where Dua Lipa has overt reverb, Jaguar Jonze remains inert, skeletal and clean

Jaguar Jonze
Words by Andy Brewer

Ignore Dua Lipa’s snappy edits and alpine echo and Jaguar Jonze's mixes are similarly taut. Live, however, the apex predator emerges.

Review: Jaguar Jonze, Nat Vazer, Chitra
Corner Hotel
Saturday 18 June

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I couldn’t help but get the sense there were ill vibes on the Saturday just been. It encompassed rancid pre-show tacos, a sinister chill in the air, ladies collapsing in the gutter on Swan Street, arriving at the venue before doors, and then that old chestnut, “Your name isn’t on the list”. Our early arrival had left ample time to scour the sky for a bad moon rising but it turned out, once settled into a dark, seedy corner of The Corner, that sometimes one just needs to get thee to a bandroom to feel “home”. A safe space one might say.

When the starter’s gun eventually sounded it was Chitra first out of the blocks with a new number called ‘Close Proximity’. Sporting a tangerine Gretsch (I told my partner in crime that nobody calls a guitar “persimmon”), a backing troupe which brought some delightful repartee with the guitarist, and a slightly untidy but charmingly ramshackle jangle, and we were off to the races. Chitra has a pretty and accomplished LP from 2020, and I felt any reference points too long a bow to draw – but a few songs into her set a comparison to Fiona Apple was suggested to me. I’ve never been a pawn in her game, but the notion is not aberrant. Chitra is more contemplative however, and live there was that distinct (aforementioned) jangle which leaned towards country. Indeed I half expected some slide guitar to emerge, perhaps the Australiana version a la Custard – a half full Crown bottle caressing the guitar neck (a feat referenced in this very publication, although with more contemporaneous lager). There was a tangerine tinged effervescence here.

The second support, Nat Vazer was a tight, well rehearsed band. Returning to the guitar colour debate, before I could run a vox pop on surrounding patrons I was forced to concede that Nat Vazer’s Fender was likely duck egg blue, thanks a lot Google. Tracks like ‘Born’ wore a tender sadness birthed of nostalgia. I should refer the reader to Is This Offensive And Loud?, Nat Vazer’s accomplished 2020 LP.

My companion compared one early track to ‘Love Story’ (Taylor Swift) but I wouldn’t know about that. Alabama Shakes’ ‘Hold On’ underlined how rock solid the backing band were – and above all, the guitarist was simply exemplary. The set highlight was ‘Better Now’, where the band was stripped back only for matters to gradually escalate, and then it all fell back into a meandering musical meadow, then climax repeat. It took me back to The Bends era Radiohead, the band really showing chops and the guitarist once again elucidating the melodies. The closing track also seemed to draw from Radiohead’s scuba diving touchstone, and it seemed appropriate for a red curtain to be drawn across the stage at this intermission.

I guessed the potential for live interpretation of Jaguar Jonze’s material and diversion from the studio sheen, but the record is of a nature that I found myself desperately searching for appropriate reference points – indeed I found myself listening to Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’ (blush – it was research!). It’s not actually an awful comparison; where Lipa has overt reverb, BUNNY MODE remains inert, skeletal and clean, but ignore Lipa’s snappy edits and alpine echo and the mixes are similarly taut.

It turned out the raucous cacophony announcing the Jaguar band was indicative in its contrast, both to what had come before, and to the recorded sound. And certainly Dua Lipa for that matter. The apex predator of this night emerged in a glorious bunny ensemble that reminded me of a convent, of Seinfeld’s pirate shirt and of a less deadly kitten, namely the Hello version. I am told there was a Stella McCartney element. Regardless, glorious – and a bunny nunnery, that’s something to ponder on.

They blasted into ‘Who Died And Made You King’ and all those name associations about Albion and The Libertines (‘The Man Who Would Be King’) evaporated in the now perforated venue. It was a short burst. Similarly short was the ratchetty follow up before we were met with the Jaguar expounding on the nature of her hangover. One can often gain insight into the live arena proficiency of an artist by their audience interface and this banter reinforced the notion before the stepped guitar melodies of ‘Drawing Lines’, which felt lyrically powerful. ‘Trigger Happy’ most clearly illustrated a link to Shirley Manson and Butch Vic which I am embarrassed to have not spotted prior – this was an assault on the senses.

‘Rabbit Hole’ was not Oscar Acosta in a bathtub waiting for Hunter Thompson to hurl the transistor radio, more a wall of Phil Spector, pistol on the sound desk, and if you blinked you missed it. After being treated to a guest flautist from a very special cat (Deena herself), the forceful personality of Ari Up was still not far from the mind before the rippling insouciant verses frothed over amid guitar squalls into another slam chorus.

The emotional veneer cracked somewhat on a segue way of ‘Little Fires’ leaving the audience to provide verses as she held head in hands, and while the Eurovision performance’s dress embers were certainly something, this was real and raw emotional tumult. Not one to stray from habit, finale ‘Kill Me With Your Love’ was also short and sweet.