Tracer AMC, Contraband and Barry Peak, 29th February 2004

BBC Across The Line, Helen Toland and David O’Reilly

We’ve endless respect for those Tracer boys. They’ve an admirable work ethic and a refreshingly creative approach to making music. And they’ve every right to be in lively form this evening. ‘Flux And Form’, the self-released debut album, is finally in the shops after a suitable nine month gestation. And there’s a sense of triumph in Auntie Annie’s, not from the band, but from a crowd who seem to be as proud of this achievement as the musicians themselves.

Barry Peake, guitarist with Torgas Valley Reds is here to warm us up, playing a few of his own and a couple of predictably obscure covers. The TVR songs are stripped to their bare bones and, while we miss the ba-bas and spikey drumming, the tunes still shine through. This guy knows how to write a killer chorus after all.

Contraband though… well we’re very excited. In an occasionally incestuous, worryingly mature local scene, they’re a cherubic, effortlessly cool breath of fresh air. They’re a proper band, with a guy and girl up front, backed by a drummer intent on making us happily bounce as our ears start to bleed.

Raphaelle is an absolute star: cocky but likeable, foxy and armed with a voice that’s sweet and squalling in equal measures. Bassist Pete is a thoroughly intense young man, growling his responses with an alarming dose of venom. Together, they’re a joy to watch.

Whether there’s longevity in the tunes remains to be seen, but the signs look good. The heavily ATL playlisted ‘Start, Switch, Repeat’ is (unbelievably) even better live than on record. And there’s more than a few killer riffs and sneaky hooks in this short, sharp set. At the very least, they’ve got huge potential, especially considering they’ve only been around for a short time.

A good attempt made at stealing the show then, but the night still belongs to Tracer AMC. With only two days rehearsals after a six month live hiatus, they could be shaky. But the tidy dynamics are on full display from the opening notes and the band appears more comfortable and confident than in the past. Much as Alex and Jonathan try to appear non-plussed by the enthusiastic audience reaction, by the end they’re trading grins, a rare sight indeed.

Having the album means we can now identify when each song ends and a new one begins, something not always clear before at Tracer gigs. So now we clap in all the right places and there are appreciative whoops when favourites begin and end. There’s little banter from the band, just one striking composition followed by another, just the pure substance of the tunes to keep us amused.

A remarkable show then, and an example of what four music fans can accomplish by themselves.

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