Little Green Cars @ Iveagh Gardens
On to the next chapter.
This was a farewell to Absolute Zero. In the run up to that album being released in March 2013, Little Green Cars were on the road, as they have been for a good chunk of the past couple of years. At SXSW they were on the lips of anyone desperate for a buzz band to recommend to other people desperate for a buzz band. They had signed to Glassnote, a label which in everyone’s imagination was rolling around Scrooge McDuck-like in banjoes and tweed waistcoats thanks to the unbelievable and unanticipated success of Mumford and Sons in the US (not to mention Two Door Cinema Club and Phoenix).
The Irish music media, many of whom had been following this bunch of talented musicians since their mid to late teens – myself included – were already writing the global success story of a band that was about to Do A Mumford. Absolute Zero was to be one of the big albums of the year. Game over. Pop open the Bolly. But then… that didn’t really happen. Expectations were too high. The UK audience didn’t seem as enamoured with them as everyone else was. The traditional local indie success story springboard of developing a large fan base, getting the Europeans on side, touring the bejaysus out of the UK (and rocking the festival circuit) and accumulating fans and big UK press before dipping one’s toe in the US and seeing what happens, seemed a little muddled. Little Green Cars were clocking up miles Stateside, with appearances on Jimmy Fallon and hitting up Coachella. But that magical coming together of everything, that crucial aligning of stars where everything just seems to fall into place when you’re not even looking, but is actually the product of everything being set up to fall into place, seemed to start, but not follow through to the fireworks stage. That said, it seems almost unfair to talk about something in these terms, as if Little Green Cars didn’t meet expectations just because they didn’t end up on the cover of The Rolling Stone. But it’s just that they are that good. It should happen.
Absolute Zero went to number one in Ireland and number 94 in the UK (which should really make the UK arm of their label and PR take a little step back and search for what they did wrong to make such a good album make such little impact there). The glossiness on the production of their biggest single, ‘The John Wayne’, hid a greater depth to other tracks. Little Green Cars make dark, complex songs, with brilliant melodies, choruses and hooks fit for a crowd the size of the Iveagh Gardens audience and bigger. They look like a great band, with an accidentally intriguing image. I say accidentally, because I’m sure LGC are just being themselves. Their harmonies are to die for. Their musicianship is fantastic. They move as a unit, like a flock. They are, without a doubt, one of the best Irish bands of their generation. Everything they do screams “potential”. Absolute Zero screamed potential too. The fact that it didn’t end up soundtracking a Noah Baumbach movie doesn’t take away from it being a great piece of work and something they should be intensely proud of.
On Saturday night in the Iveagh Gardens, Stevie Appleby is reflecting on how many people have turned up to the gig. He could picture them naked, but that’s even more terrifying he says from the stage. The band lash into a tight set, with much of Absolute Zero on show, as well as a couple of new songs that sound intriguing. The band are writing at the moment, second album on the horizon. There must be a sense of freedom rather than pressure to moving on to a new era in the band, a new set of songs, packing the other tunes away for a while and focussing on new possibilities.
Every time I see Little Green Cars play, I’m plunged back into the brilliance of their compositions. ‘Them’, ‘Harper Lee’, and their best song, ‘My Love Took Me Down To The River To Silence Me’. Despite the sound not being fantastic (we just can’t seem to get great sound for outdoor shows in this country), it’s a splendid, peaceful, charming sort of gig, for a brilliant, weird band and finishes with an encore of ‘The John Wayne’ with the crowd shouting along in unison.
On to the next one. Little Green Cars don’t need to Do A Mumford. You get one chance at being the Next Big Thing, but you have forever to do things your way.