Gig: Daughter

Georgian Theatre, Stockton – 19/1/13

Apologies in advance for this, because I haven’t got much interesting to say about the Daughter gig. Strangely appropriate, though, because Daughter haven’t as yet got too much to say for themselves, either. Once a solo project, now a three-piece, Daughter’s sound is reasonably unique, albeit in a moderately boring way. I would say they remind me a little of labelmates (Daughter are now signed to 4AD) the Cocteau Twins, but such a comparison extends only as far as that both bands are concerned primarily with atmospherics over pop hooks or big choruses. But where the Cocteaus create intense, crystalline soundscapes, Daughter create not much at all. There’s nothing specifically wrong with their sound – they can play their instruments perfectly well, and even if singer Elena Tonra appears rather limited (she whines and whispers to the exclusion of all else) there are no especial musical faux-pas to criticise. But there was not one single moment that interested me. Daughter’s oeuvre is a hook-free zone, and their droning, insistent approach grates after, let’s see, half a song. It’s a real shame, because they could be good, but just seem insubstantial currently. Maybe that’ll change.

That said, they seem very popular. Their performance seemed to go down well. In support, they had Icelandic singer-songwriter Lay Low, who was OK, I suppose. Again, she could play guitar – in fact, she had pretty decent guitar chops – but her singing was average, and she subscribed to the theory of ‘slower is better’, leading to long periods within songs where very little was happening. Her bluesy sound didn’t fit with her mild singing voice and stage demeanour. Blues-rock, even from a one-man band, needs to have some attitude, some raunch or some groove but Lay Low had nothing of the sort. That isn’t to say she was bad; she was just mediocre. At one point the twelve-string came out – any Smiths or Cure fan will understand my excitement at having seen that – but no, she just pressed on with her choppy, formulaic, blues-rock-by-numbers. I can’t name any of the songs. One was in Icelandic; sounded the same as the others, though. A friend of mine, who seemed to share my opinion of Lay Low, summed it up nicely in saying that, maybe with a full band, she’d have been better. I reckon I concur with that. Some of her songs were simply overly sparse and consequently uninteresting. A bassist would certainly have helped matters.

On to the main event, then. I knew in advance Daughter wouldn’t pull up any trees for me. I hadn’t tried hard to get a ticket. In fact, my attendance was purely a matter of chance, with a friend pulling out hours before. Having listened to their Wild Youth EP, and promptly forgotten everything I’d heard, I knew exactly what to expect. Daughter’s performance was perfectly slick, and they certainly look the part. On stage, too, they were pleasant and charming. They thanked the audience for turning up in mild, slightly hushed tones, and generally came across as a nice bunch. They swapped instruments throughout, and all three seemed equally comfortable on bass, guitar or vocals. There was nothing at all wrong with what they did, but that was nothing interesting, or even human for that matter. They were simply people who came on stage, played seven or eight nice, forgettable tracks, then departed again to recharge, or be oiled, or whatever it is robots do. They had no character whatsoever. In fact, I would bet actual money that if you ripped off their clothes, they’d be wearing Action Man’s plastic, un-removable blue pants. All of them. Even the girl.

Musically, I would say they play dream-pop, but only if we’re talking about one of those dull dreams where you go to the supermarket or something and don’t even get to kill or have sex with anyone. I will point out that they knew what they were doing: their murky, sharp guitar work was a highlight, albeit a little wasted on much of their work. Again, I’m having a hard time remembering individual songs. One song, ‘Youth’, was sort of melancholic, but not in a heart-rending, angst-ridden Corganesque fashion, more in a slightly Laura-Marling-of-shoegaze kind of way. Another friend seems to rate Daughter’s lyrics – well, the only lyric I remember is “I hate your guts/I want you so much but I hate your guts”. Not exactly Richey Edwards, is it? This, I think, is Daughter’s fundamental problem. They have good ideas and some measure of talent, but on this evidence no real character. It is very early in their career, so maybe their debut album will reveal hidden depths?

You might have deduced by now that Daughter did nothing for me. I enjoyed the gig, they were nice to look at and sort-of even listen to, in a sort of background-noise, vanilla-ice-cream fashion. It should be pointed out that, despite my reservations about Daughter, many fellow gig-goers seemed quite taken with them. I will buy their album when it comes out: they do have talent, if seemingly little current idea of what to do with it!

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