Civil Protection live @Buffalo

4 stars (out of 5)

1

Civil Protection coverOne of the benefits of being a member of the Riot Squad is that you get to visit all sorts of weird and wonderful venues and (mostly) hear great new bands; sometimes you even get both at the same time.  So this time it’s Buffalo in Islington, a cellar bar with enough PA to ensure the bands are loud and a room that you could probably cram 150 people into if you had a big shoe-horn.  We were invited to go and have a look at Civil Protection, who were first on the bill but thought it was only polite to check out the other three bands on the bill.

Sound Off played a set that was musically solid but not particularly strong vocally, while Punch and Judy featured original material plus a couple of covers including the song you couldn’t get away from this summer, “Get Lucky” which they rocked up a bit at the expense of its funky feel and it sounded pretty good.  Of the three, Vera Lynch impressed most.  They describe themselves as dark alt-surf-garage rock with a sprinkling of psychedelia; the musicianship is very high quality, the songs are strong and they have a very charismatic frontman and I’m sure they’ll be featuring here in the near future.

Civil Protection are a five-piece from Yorkshire (bass, drums, three guitars and occasional vocals) and they released their debut album, “Stolen Fire” earlier this month.  They’ve been compared to post-rock bands like Mogwai and This Will Destroy You, but there’s probably a bit of Sigur Ros in there as well.  It’s impossible to describe what they do as songs, because there aren’t a lot of vocals; soundscapes is probably better or, if I’m feeling really pretentious, tone poems.

The set opens with the quietly haunting “Monedula” and, as on the album, eases gently into the opening of “Stolen Fire” which builds layer on layer, guitar on guitar using all of the band’s dynamic range.  “My Memories will be Part of the Sky” starts like a piledriver before easing back into a build-up starting with a melodic bass line.  “Many Moons Ago” and “Redrawn” have similar structures, starting slowly and gradually adding textures (although “Redrawn” does it twice) before hitting a peak and releasing the tension with a gentle coda.  And that’s it; thirty minutes and five pieces.

Civil Protection live are a collage of textures and layers of guitar (and bass) parts with a huge dynamic range.  The band move effortlessly up through the gears from one clean, quiet guitar to the whole band playing at full power in a live setting with as much confidence as on the album and somehow convey emotional states without using lyrical content.  The changes of pace and levels throughout the short set ensure that the audience is always attentive, waiting for the next move. You should make the effort to get out and see Civil Protection live as soon as you can but if you can’t do that, then get yourself a copy of “Stolen Fire”.