November 6, 2002
Sometimes it's difficult to capture the power of performance through writing. There's something inherently silly about using words to illustrate the way a singer convulses or the way instrumental sections interlock to form a tight, danceable beat. Language is notoriously ill-equipped to convey feeling. But it's particularly problematic in this case because the Music's music is so defiantly against easy categorization and the slight awkwardness of the band's delivery is precisely what makes them such a compelling live proposition.
To begin to make sense of the Music, you've got to start with Robert Harvey. Harvey is the singer and supporting guitarist on paper, but his primary role in the Music is to provide spiritual guidancenot in a sanctimonious or overtly religious manner like, say, Bono or Scott Stapp. Harvey, instead, reacts to the grooves laid down by the band: dancing, jumping, shadowboxing. He's an emotional barometer of sorts, constantly relaying the ebbs and flows of the music through movement. His indie-boy dance steps weren't always pretty, but there was never a hint of self-consciousness either way. That was the essential message: this was music to be felt, not reasoned. Whereas most performers must implore the audience to let loose (and even then they are met with stiff resistance), Harvey simply willed the audience to movement through sheer charisma. By the end of the night, every concertgoer was possessed, surrendering to the beat and moving with reflex-like speed.
As for the musical content, the band has quite obviously spent some time listening to the first Stone Roses album, but there seems to be an equal fascination with the early works of Led Zeppelin, U2, and even Oasis minus the bombastic choruses. Most of the songs were characterized by fevered, epic builds and releaseslike Mogwai without the pretension. As you might expect, these influences are not the easiest to combine. But it's a testament to the immense skill and precision of the individual members (the guitar work of Adam Nutter deserves special mention) that the band managed to rise above the sound of a well-stocked jukebox. The Music have taken all these disparate elements and formed not only a coherent whole, but an original one as well.
Of course, the Music don't come without their share of baggage. As good, young, and original as they are, they're still a bit lacking in the song department. "Take the Long Road and Walk It" is a good, proper anthem, as is "The People," but most of their other songs, while never failing to impress on a technical level, fall short of memorable. The group also seems to be a poor judge of their own material since the best songs they played on this particular eveningincluding "Jag Tune" and "The Walls Get Smaller"aren't even on the debut album. Still, there's no question that the group possesses an enormous amount of potential. If they continue to mature in the right areas and at a reasonable pace, this is a band that could easily become the first important British band of the new millennium. I wouldn't bet against them.