At 8:30 last night, I had never heard a single song by the Australian band An Horse. Four hours later, I was pulling their poster off the 7th Street Entry wall to bring home as a souvenir. The bouncer said he’d never seen anyone do that. “I’m kind of geeking out,” I admitted, showing him the An Horse t-shirt hanging out of my pocket.
I’d heard about the band through the tweets of Tegan Quin, the more communicative half of Tegan and Sara. Quin’s enthusiasm was enough recommendation for me, but I didn’t get around to actually listening to any of An Horse’s songs until an hour before I left for the Entry. It immediately became clear why Quin was such a fan: An Horse’s debut album Rearrange Beds is distinctly reminiscent of Tegan and Sara’s 2004 album So Jealous—which is not a bad album to be distinctly reminiscent of. Singer Kate Cooper’s phrasing is very similar to Tegan’s and Sara’s—especially Sara’s—and her songs are similarly structured, with phrases repeated over and over in chant-like incantations.
I missed first opener Where Astronauts Go To Hide, but arrived in time for Dewi Sant—a band who proudly noted that they invented their name the last time they opened for An Horse. Dewi Sant shone on their richly arranged uptempo numbers, but the slower numbers were weighed down by the kind of earnest but slightly silly lyrics that in the 70s would earn songwriters disdain for trying to be “the new Dylan.”
When An Horse took the stage, the sizable (for the Entry) crowd pushed towards the stage and stood stock still. To say that a crowd stood almost motionless for a band whose songs were, with exactly one exception, high-tempo rave-ups is in this case a compliment: we were taking it all in, letting it wash over us. Cooper doesn’t even try to play solos; it’s all power chords, all the time as she smashes away at her instrument. If Cooper is primitive, drummer Damon Cox, the other half of the two-person band, is precise. Cox has Police drummer Stewart Copeland’s gift for playing complex figures that still manage to be powerful; in fact, they give the songs even more momentum than a driving 4/4 because they seem like they’re actually going somewhere.
Live, An Horse sound even more like Jealous-era Tegan and Sara; in fact, they sound like the distilled essence of that album. The songs are not as strong, but how could they be? They’re more than good enough, and seeing An Horse’s passionate performance at the Entry was actually a much more exciting experience than seeing Tegan and Sara at the cavernous State Theatre. I don’t want to overplay the comparison, but given that it’s unavoidable, it may as well be noted by way of saying that An Horse are very much their own band—and, what’s more, a band that I’m not going to be so laissez-faire about seeing next time they’re in town.
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