Sensory Overload: Love Culture

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The first thing you notice when you see Love Culture is frontman Tristan Swan, a lanky, long-haired Russell Brand look-alike who sings and sways with the "tortured visionary" affectation you might expect from Billy Corgan.

At that point it would be easy to write off the band and head home to laugh at their self-indulgent MySpace headshots.

Then you start to listen to the music swelling up behind Swan and, by God, this stuff is decent - and certainly unique for a Columbus band. Such was my experience last Tuesday, when the band chipped away at my bias during a show at Cafe Bourbon Street.

The most obvious touch point for Love Culture is My Bloody Valentine, the seminal shoegaze act that built dreamy, gauzy rock music by burying sleepy melodies under layers of glistening noise and reverb. Swan and his bandmates don't just dip in that pool; they're basically swimming in it, but they know enough different strokes to keep from drowning under the weight of their influences.

Their music has a sonically and emotionally heavy streak that casts various shadows over the course of their set. Sometimes Swan's falsetto swung into sublime Sigur Ros territory; other times he skewed too far into an emo-prog whine and ended up sounding like My Chemical Romance without the hooks to back up the self-indulgence. His whispered coos and mountaintop bellows even occasionally recalled intelligent knuckle-draggers like Deftones and A Perfect Circle.

There are certain dangers to playing music made for arenas in clubs sized for punk rock. Songs designed to sound massive can seem flimsy coming through a budget sound system, or with enough amplification they can overpower crowds in such a small space. Gestures that might be appropriate on a grand scale feel disingenuous on a micro level.

Love Culture teetered on the verge of these problems but didn't let the obstacles keep them from putting on a good show. Their earnest demeanor felt out of place on a stage where ironic detachment usually rules the day, and there were times when the tunes felt a little thin. But more often they struck the right sonic balance, sounding dynamic and full through a system that has neutered its share of bands.

They were an odd fit between the scrappy alterna-pop of Blastronauts and the ragtag future folk jams of Woods. Yet they managed to be more of a refreshing change of pace than a regrettable mismatch. They'll be worth following if they focus on channeling their dramatic instincts into mature bursts of melody and noise rather than temper-tantrum post-emo rubbish.

Either way, their headshots will still be funny.

For more local music news and reviews, click to the Sensory Overload blog