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2nd November 2015

Live: Alex G

Is this apathy or ecstasy? Who can tell. Either way, it’s pure melody. Henry Scanlan reports on Alex G, live at Night & Day

19th October

Night & Day Café

It’s 10:30pm at the Night & Day, and Alex G has opened the floor for song requests. Above is an inconclusive list of demands. Only thing is, we’re already in the encore, and G only has time for one more song. Even after a full set, the number of suggestions blurted at the stage gives an idea of the depth of Alex G’s songbook after only seven years of output. After a minute or two of rabble, the fan with the strongest baritone gets his wish, and the band close with ‘Change.’

Playing live, Alex Giannascoli comes across as facetious and nihilistic, and sounds much grungier than on record. Gone are the delicately sampled micro-melodies that litter his albums, replaced with formless jams between songs that break up the show and at times bring the momentum of the setlist grinding to a halt. These freakouts are as disruptive as Spotify adverts, but gripping nonetheless. The drummer keeps no time, the bassist spanks strings at random, and Alex G screams into the mic. He doesn’t seem to give a fuck. Is he slurring his words because he’s wasted, or just apathetic?

As an interviewee, it’s like talking to Holden Caulfield (see the Q&A in our archive). Online, it’s like he’s mastered technology but remains a luddite; everything on his tumblr page is in small caps, lacking punctuation and proper grammar, illustrated with Polaroid pictures. As Dan Miller noted in last week’s issue, he’s also a technically brilliant home-producer, but chooses to leave his coughs in the mic track.

It all appears authentic, but also non-committal in its own way; he seems pretty out there, but his wilfully disaffected attitude is what stops him from taking things to the next level. He may lack ambition, but to me that seems like a wonderful thing. His music is all about simple pleasures, like his dogs—and warding off complications by clinging to one’s innocence. Like Mac DeMarco, who scaled things back this year with Another One, Alex G is another small town music maker who just wants to kick back with his homies, and his pets.

I imagine most of Alex G’s fans harbour that strangely protective sentiment of hoping your favourite artist doesn’t become too successful. For reassurance, they should go to one of his unambitious, bittersweet shows. His set at Night & Day wasn’t that good—half-arsed and lacking in stage presence— but somehow that makes me glad. Clearly, Alex G fans are not going to have to endure the loss of their indie totem to money and fame; he’s not going to achieve it, because he doesn’t seem to want to. And so back to that set closer, ‘Change’, which says it all in a few words. It’s a minimal four-chord structure, ending with a repeated, timid refrain: “I don’t like how things change.”

When people label something “90s guitar music,” it’s usually a fairly meaningless term, but for Alex G it totally makes sense. If there is a meaning to the “90s” term, I’d say it’s to do with documenting twisted adolescence. A lot of bands before the 90s dealt with growing up, but mostly in different ways: 60s bands sang about girls and drugs, 70s punk was teenager-ish but in a much angrier and more purposeful way.

But the first thing that comes to mind when someone drops the “90s” suffix is unglamorous, snotty, lazy music for fucked up teenagers and their petty lives. In this way, it’s the music with the most defined generational gap—it’s the stuff you couldn’t imagine listening to once you’re out of your twenties and trying to get on in life. The “90s sound” gets thrown around a lot in music writing, but Alex G truly embodies it. In all his pitch-warping, throwaway home-recording and word-slurring nihilistic glory, Alex G is every inch 2015’s poet laureate of youthhood.

Henry Scanlan

Henry Scanlan

Head Music Editor and third-year student of History.

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