News Café, Ixelles
12th March 2009
Tonight’s trip into the vaults of the Brussels rock scene is courtesy of Garner. Or to give them their full name in glorious Technicolor, The Garner Bought Drums Project. The News Café is not exactly heaving. The owner later apologised for having screwed up and having booked them on the same night as a major ULB party. But there’s still a hardcore of familiar faces, and the beer is cold and wet.
“This is a song about Garner. Garner is dead.” Announces Nico 3 songs into the set. Oh dear! Garner by all accounts seems to be a twisted soul, who failed to die successfully, and is tortured by pathos and the inevitability of destiny. The tone is pretty much set from the start with “Behind the Curtain”, behind which Garner hides his ego, “Lost in Confusion” which is about… Garner being lost and confused. The lyrical content of the songs is most certainly helped by Nico’s vocal delivery – the diction, enunciation and stresses are immaculate, and while he retains a hint of a mid-Atlantic Franco-American accent, this only adds to the character of the vocals. And there’s plenty of character there – a very dry, brusque, almost spoken style and vocal gymnastics that reminded of Jimmy Page at times.
Bretton exile Nico Rambaud is the brains behind Garner. He writes all the songs, all the parts, from the vocals down to the drum patterns. That doesn’t take credit away from the other musicians by any means – Didier Fontaine has a hugely impressive musical CV. He delivers the complex breaks and rhythm changes with awesome skill and dynamism, and real sensitivity when needed. Laurent Stelleman is better known as guitarist for Monsoon, but he’s also a phenomenally good bass player with a graduate in Jazz and light music. Not that there’s anything “light” about tonight. It’s a mark of just what a talented musician Nico is that these guys want to play with him. This is more than what they do for a living – this is what they live to do.
Musically, we are treated to a sort of hard jazz & funk tinged rock, not that dissimilar from Steve Albini’s band Shellac. Influences are also betrayed by a Prince and a Hendrix cover, but rather appropriately, neither “The Cross” nor “Manic Depression” stray from the overall theme.
If you’re tempted to go and see Garner, and if you’re a musician in a rock band, I highly recommend that you do, as it’s a real masterclass in delivering a great live rock performance, start with the myspace site. Listen to the songs, watch the video, get an idea and a feel for Garner’s little world – you’ll get more out of the gig. Even if you’re not really into the music, they’re well worth seeing at least once.
This wouldn't be complete without a mention of Nico's detailed and precise guitar work, culminating towards the end of the set in a magnificent clean and quiet guitar solo where you could literally hear a pin drop.
I think for a future article, we might just try and coax Garner onto the couch for a psychoanalysis session.
Next gig I see is Saturday 21st March 2009 at the Murmure, just behind Place Flagey. If I’m allowed out, I’ll be there.