The Verse’s William Craigie reviews The Wave Pictures at Komedia on the 21st November.
It is fair to say The Wave Pictures are not a massive band. Lead singer David Tattersall wryly makes reference to this halfway through the set, before introducing a song from their ‘vinyl only’ album saying it was played by “Lauren Laverne and everything” and “their biggest ever” song reached 97. This self-referential, deadpan British humour is one of the band’s main appeals. They exist in ‘our’ world rather than in the bubble of ‘fame’, and their songs are extremely relatable. They feel real – like a Mike Leigh film put to music. In an era of rampant egotism, where certain musicians appear to lack any connection to reality, The Wave Pictures’ music and live demeanour is a refreshing change.
Their eclectic set goes from funk rock to 80s indie; glam rock to something off a Clint Eastwood western. And their inspirations are interesting to say the least – witty and melodic, ‘Missula’ is about “having a beer belly and stuff like that”. ‘The Running Man’, from the first of two albums released this year, is inspired by their “third favourite” Arnold Schwarzenegger film. And while The Smiths strongly influence their sound, are there any covers of How Soon is Now?. Nope.
Instead they dedicate a song to Dr Feelgood, a 70’s pub-rock band from Canvey Island, and parallels can be made between the two. Both bands are underrated, carving a niche for themselves by refusing to adhere to convention, and staying uniquely true to what they are about. The Wave Pictures are proudly British in their sound and lyrics at that. Not many artists can pull off lines like “I don’t need therapy, I just need cigarettes”. There is no big spectacle here; just them and their music. There is no vanity or pretence either. Tattersall can be seen drinking what appears to be whisky throughout, perhaps slightly tipsy, making them even more endearing.
A good mix of up-tempo and stripped-back tracks, the setlist hyped-up the mostly older audience. To an appropriate degree of course. The more slower tracks were just as effective. The Wave Pictures themselves had great chemistry; it was clear the band is democratic and generous. Each member had their moment to show off their brilliant musicality which shone through in moments of extensive (but not self indulgent) jamming. Who else since Lennon and McCartney let Ringo take a stab at Yellow Submarine, would let their drummer – Johnny Helm – sing for 3-4 songs of a gig?
Tattersall gives an anecdote about early days, driving 9 hours to play gigs, and The Wave Pictures are clearly hardworking. This begs the question: why are they not more popular? Maybe their music is too DIY or niche. But they deserve more attention to their name, and perhaps gigs like this one will achieve that.