The Books

I went to see The Books last night. Here’s why it was the best gig I’ve been to in ages:

  • The music of collaged found sounds was backdropped by a projection of videos they have made. Along with sound recordings, the band collected a thousand hours of video footage while on tour and then cut it to their songs. The music is cinematic enough anyway, but it was perfectly augmented by the visuals, and not just in a way that made for cool eye candy for the show, but in a way that actually complimented the music a lot. I got the impression that the visuals were as important to the band as the music.

  • I didn’t know what to expect, and so I didn’t expect much… a prerequisite, I think, to really enjoying any kind of performance. Or as their song Smells Like Content says,

Expectation leads to disappointment. If you don’t expect something big, huge, and exciting… Usually, uh. I dont know, it’s just not as… yeah.

(Similarly, I love film trailers, but watching one has never made the final film better for me.) * They did away with the non-essential parts of playing live. That is, they took the sensible approach to electronic music and just let all the non-live mouse-clicking stuff play as a prerecorded backing track, and played only guitar and cello live. I’ve had many discussions about this in the past, but I’m now of the opinion that there isn’t really any value in seeing someone create sounds by knob-twiddling live on a laptop; engineering is not performance.

  • There was lots of video footage and audio recordings from when they were kids, which made the whole thing a lot more emotionally resonant (again something I think most electronic music lacks). It also made me think about how encouraging creativity in kids can result in a very unselfconscious adult artist; lots of the material was of them as kids playing around recording stuff for fun like kids do, and now they are simply grown ups doing the exact same thing. Why not also play around with computers and make video if you’re a musician? The two guys happen to be really good at making music, but they are not interested in just being in a band, but in being artists in a vernacular sense. Most people could make videos and drawings and a website as good as The Books if they were just interested in making art for the fun of it.

  • Seemed like nice, normal guys, just doing their thing. And they stayed around to chat with people after.

  • Two encores!

— 19 May 2007