Some bands set out to be a polished, pitch-perfect, tight-as-hell force to be reckoned with – fervently honing their craft, and rehearsing their set with all the zeal of an East Asian Buddhist monk in training. Bare Pale are not one of these bands. They are, however, a sedative reverb/distortion laden trio, with all the ‘90s apathy of Pavement. And boast a live performance that gives exactly zero shits. Witnessing them live has given me cause to coin a new term for their genre: ‘Daria-rock’.
I’ve seen these guys play a few times before, the first being at the Amersham Arms in New Cross when they supported my band. My first impression was one of bewilderment: I liked their indifferent, J. Mascus style attitude on stage. But vocals were something to be desired. I wasn’t sure if lead singer Matthew Rickelton was intentionally singing out of key, and out of time at points. That their slacker performance was a carefully constructed ploy. Or if they were just kind of shit. I found it to be the former, less in the respect of the whole thing being ploy, but more in the respect that they are just sort of like that: intrinsically slacker.
Their performance at the Old Blue Last certainly didn’t defy that formula. The trio lazily blasted out a tirade of sleazy ’90s revival Shoegaze rock tunes. Complete with tremolo arm shimmying My Bloody Valentine haziness. Matthew embellished the performance with the odd ad lib shouting in between songs, and seemingly random assertions like “my glasses keep falling off” or simply “Vice sucks” (the Old Blue Last is a Vice owned venue, and I was drinking with the band upstairs in the private bar before their set. A lot of the Vice guys were up there at the time. Maybe something about their presence irked him in some way, or maybe, more likely, he was just being spontaneously antagonistic. A lot of elements of their set could be described as ‘spontaneous’).
Bale Pale finished their set on my personal favourite of theirs: ‘Shame’ – possibly the most hypnotically lethargic of their shoelace ogling set. And performed in a manner reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr. The end of the song was promptly followed by Matthew smashing up the stage with his guitar, in an unimpassioned, ironic kind of way.
All in all, if you are a Bare Pale virgin, then you might find them kind of hard to enjoy. As they seem to go out of their way for you not to enjoy them. But their awkwardness is an acquired taste, like an ironic olive. What’s next for Bare Pale? Who Knows, I don’t think they care. To quote their signature song ‘oh what a shame.’
Words: Lewis Parrin