Dev Hynes’ latest release, Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You, has seen him being hailed by many critics as a British equivalent of Conor Oberst (ironically his debut record was produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes) and seen him leave his dance punk past far behind him. After moving across the pond since his last release, this is the first night of Lightspeed Champions’ latest UK tour.
Openers Kurran and the Wolfnotes are a London band, yet none of the band are fully English. They are a mixed bunch and these various influences shine through in their songs. Frontman Kurran Karbal’s vocals sound equal parts Decemberists as they do Panic at the Disco (don’t let this put you off). Their harmonies sound perfect, mixing both female and male vocals, and the rhythm section is as tight as they come while remaining very creative. They bring to mind American 90’s music as well as more modern exports such as Band of Horses. Towards the end of the set you feel they could add more variety, but as a young band they certainly have time on their side.
Armed with recruits from New Yorker Adam Green’s band, Lightspeed Champion takes to the stage around 9 and performs an hour long set spanning both of his solo records as well as a few surprise covers. In the time between his last record and his latest, Dev Hynes has managed to release several home bootlegs, write successful pop songs for other artists (including Florence and the Machine and Diana Vickers), pen several comics and create soundtracks for several projects. So based upon this it’s safe to assume he lies somewhere between Jeffrey Lewis and Jonny Greenwood on the creativity scale.
It is great to be able to see such a talented performer in a venue of this size but it restricts him from being able to bring along the small string section he has been known for using in the past. He opens on first single from the new album, ‘Marlene’, and proceeds to keep the set flowing without too many breaks between songs but when he does, comes across as a very shy but humorous character. The 10 minute epic, ‘Midnight Surprise’ is sublimely put together and its no wonder he has been asked to write scores for the British Film Institute when he has the ability to craft masterpieces like this. Somewhere along the way he throws in a cover of the Beach Boys’ ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and ends on the opener from the Beatles’,With The Beatles, ‘It Won’t Be Long’. Unfortunately Dev Hynes is unlikely to be mentioned in the same breath as these two legendary bands anytime soon, but based upon the talent and impact he has on audiences everywhere he plays, he should be a lot closer to them than he currently is.