Why Want The Wants? Because it’s your chance to surrender to a life punctuated by comically small beanies, song deficits and trips to the bathroom with all of your favourite guys.
This Wednesday, I saw The Wants at the Lexington. They’re a New York post-punk band, who are apparently “Led by [an] elusive duality of personas, which oscillate between earnestly romantic and unsettlingly deadpan.” Two-thirds of the band are also in art rock five-piece, Bodega, which explains some of the current buzz about them. Perhaps that’s why they’re able to describe themselves with such style.
They Want The Wants
I didn’t pay to see the show. My girlfriend had an extra ticket.
I wasn’t her first choice of company. She’d planned to go with a friend. Apparently, sometimes they both treat the process of buying gig tickets as a seduction raffle. In this case, the prize was a chance to bag The Wants’ unconventionally handsome, Madison Velding-VanDam. However, when the aforementioned friend discovered that DIIV, an apparently prettier band, were playing the same night, she took the plunge and my girlfriend was left treading water with me.
I hadn’t listened to anything released by The Wants prior to the gig, so I went in cold.
However, having now listened to everything they’ve got on Spotify (on repeat); the Motor, Fear My Society, Clearly A Crisis and Container; I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re actually pretty cool, albeit, there’s not a whole lot to go on.
While I was listening to The Wants, my flatmate compared them to Butthole Surfers. Considering his playlists are dominated by Adele and Billie Eilish, it isn’t the worst comparison. But I’d say they’re more like Talking Heads, with an engine running on ambient techno and a quirk suppressor (they’d take it off, but these days, the environment’s a big issue).
Before the show had even started, the merchandise stand became a talking point.
Instead of stacks of 12” LPs and cassettes, the shop window was piled high with cans of tinned food, unlabelled. Despite the obvious guess being that this was to help attendees self-isolate in the event they contracted Coronavirus at the gig, it turned out to be a cool way to add physicality to preordering The Wants upcoming album Container.
I was severely disappointed to learn that all of the cans contained peas. Word of advice The Wants, next consider the possibility of a couple of cans of Fray Bentos.
Who’s The Happy Couple?
First to play were female-fronted, three-piece Happy Couple. They kicked it off with a frenetic, bass-driven, noise rock set.
Happy Couple offered a selection of songs that were a tauter, more accessible, take on Kim Gordon-led efforts from Sonic Youth’s major label era. While there’s often a tendency for noise rock to sound a bit samey, Happy Couple delivered plenty of diversity. Altogether, a pretty sound support.
What About The Wants?
Headliners, The Wants ran through a limited catalogue with a certain poise.
The set was short. Really short. Departure time was 22:00, even with the encore. Similarly, every song ended impressively abruptly, as if it was a theme.
Live, The Motor was slick. It was also charming to see frontman, Madison Velding-VanDam so VanDam-elated, making considerable use of the confined space. On the night, his onstage antics seemed to be taking cues from a certain David Bryne’s brand of bizarre.
While his enthusiasm did nothing to propagate the promise of deadpan, it worked, with the exception of Fear My Society. It sounded a bit like someone reciting keywords from a Medium article, losing a bit of its otherwise stirring atmosphere of the recording. That’s to say, I was initially turned off the song during the gig, but arrived at liking it.
I shouldn’t forget that my girlfriend thought the show’s highlight was bassist Heather Elle’s Wednesday Adams dress. Given that I know even less about dresses than I do about music, I’ll refrain from providing an opinion.
Conformity of Cool
Forgetting The Wants, one of the most striking things about the gig was the conformity of the crowd.
It was like walking down Broadway Market on a Saturday.
A sea of tea-pot-cosy inspired hats, more mullets than I care to mention, the heavy stench of that scent every girl in east London wears (you know the one I’m talking about), leather trousers, moustaches and those dangly cross earrings. I guess it happens with fad, but this really seems to be a uniform.
Now, while I’ll admit I wasn’t there because I adore The Wants, it felt like I wasn’t the only one. Despite the evident draw of the band, it was as if the majority of the crowd were there because this could, for all intents and purposes, be perceived as a Bodega side-project, making attendance less of a risk (in terms of maximising cool time) than another band may be.
Standing in the crowd, it felt at times like everyone was auditioning for a leading role in the next Churchill advert, ominously nodding their heads to songs they weren’t familiar with.
I don’t write this to be judgemental, or maybe I do. But there wasn’t the vibe that people were there to see a band they liked. I’m guilty of this too, but I think the atmosphere suffered.
Perhaps that’s why there were so many boys going to the bathroom in threes.
You know, so they could complement each other on their facial grooming techniques while washing their hands.