There’s a song on ‘Alpinisms’ – the debut album of School Of Seven Bells, a nu-gaze band from New York made up of Benjamin Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines and identical twins Claudia and Alejandra Dehez – that is the best homage to the way out sound of My Bloody Valentine since, well My Bloody Valentine. It’s called ‘Face to face on high places’ and it’s very, very good. You don’t listen to it and decry the band for being such copyists. You applaud them for coming up with such a good song that just happens to sounds like an outtake from ‘Loveless’. It’s one of the reasons I went along to see them in Whelans last Monday. Could they replicate the woozy, lazy, shoegazy sound of ‘Alpinisms’ in a live setting? Well, yes actually.
They still look a little unsure of themselves on stage. The beautiful Dehez sisters’ eyes dart around the room alittle self-consciously : one on keyboards, the other on vocals and guitar. In between is Curtis, eyes down, lost in the music, his previous role in Secret Machines a dimming memory. Behind them there is no drummer which is little disconcerting. And no bass-player. Yet they still manage to propel a rich, full sound however, a sound atop which the twins’ voices sing intertwined, seamless and crystal clear. They play that song. It sounds great. As does ‘Half Asleep’ which contains the line ‘One day, suddenly, time took a turn that once felt so brief/I blinked to see polite ghosts fading quickly’. Worthy of Auden or Kavanagh is that. It’s a short set, we forgive them: the tickets were cheap and they have only one album out. They disappear to return to ‘their house party in Swords’.
There is a fine line between homage and unashamed replication. It’s a line most bands don’t see or care about. School Of Seven Bells know where the line is. They take their MBV blueprint and distill something fresh out of it while still sounding like MBV. They’ve nailed it. They’re good.