Last night Battles were awesome and awkward, and astounding in every way. As you can hear on new album (leaked today!) their songs are better than ever, but they could have a problem with singers.
Last year they lost their quasi-frontman Tyondai Braxton to his side projects, and had to record Gloss Drop with a clutch of guest vocalists. Now their live show sticks the star singers in the background (on screens, when they work) and off to the side – as with sole live singer Matias Aguayo – a kind of metaphor for their disconnection from the band proper.
While the use of vocalists (relatively) unprocessed makes the fresh material more like songs than sonic experiments, video footage of them proves distracting; in the flesh, the trio revolve around ex-Helmet drummer John Stanier, a mancrush of mine and a serious machine. The new music he propels along is at once less fragmented and more wide-open, cocking an ear to G Funk, trance and epic instrumental rock – and on encore track Sundome, both Screamadelica and tweakin’ hip hop. The clear highlight was Gary Numan collaboration My Machines, a little underwhelming on record compared to a live rendition which edged into Angel Dust-era Faith No More, a melodramatic metal nightmare.
So the three-piece’s live show is a qualified success. Now we just have to see how they ride out this pesky leak. They may have won the Battles (ouch!), but will they win the war?