Finally brought to the UK via Songkick Detour and DrownedinSound, Conor Oberst’s hardcore band Desaparecidos made it into Camden on a snowy night. TH hipster wallies, Raziq Rauf and Tom Doyle were gently shuffling near to the front pondering what it all means. Here are their musings…
6 things we learnt when we saw Desaparecidos in Camden…
1) For the first couple of songs Conor Oberst is wearing sunglasses. Indoors. At night. In the winter. They are aviators and he looks like Val Kilmer in Top Gun. Hey Ice Man, you stink.
2) If it’s true that when a band goes from hard to soft, there is an insipid quality (see: Alexisonfire to City and Colour) because the pressure has already been relieved by that point, it’s the opposite when it’s the other way round. This is the hardest music that the guys in this band will play. As such, it has a feral quality to it because this is their only cathartic opportunity. Just because Conor Oberst is best known for his indie folk project, Bright Eyes, it doesn’t mean that Desaparecidos can’t be superbly cathartic, not to mention heavy.
3) Bright Eyes were never the most overtly political band, certainly not around the time of Lifted when Desparecidos first reared their head. There was always the sense that this was Oberst’s socially conscious outlet and it shows here tonight as he goads the crowd about the still-captive Julian Assange and our ongoing position as The United States of America’s bitch. It is, amongst other things, this politicized edge which make these songs from Read Music/Speak Spanish feel as current as the day they were released, over a decade ago.
4) This is not a traditional hardcore crowd. Being from Omaha, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that Desaparecidos’ sound is purely an affectation but it’s closer in style to DC hardcore – intelligent, political and not obsessed with image. If we’re talking about faux-styles and affectations, it’s also important to note there are no chest-beating, ninja-kicking, flat peak New Era-d bros in the mosh. There are as many girls as there are guys. Make of that what you will.
5) This isn’t a reunion per se, because Desaparecidos was only ever a secondary project for Oberst, but it’s one that resonated so, so strongly with the hardcore scene back in 2002, when they released Read Music/Speak Spanish. The fact that they never toured perhaps elevated them in many opinions, but the fact they are playing so brilliantly – the songs sound like they do on record but with added power and verve – means that their legacy not only remains intact, but is actually elevated further after tonight. Is this the best of 2012′s punk rock reunions? Possibly. Either way, it’s a privilege to see it tonight.
6) As they wind up their set in time to “Catch their plane outta here,” Oberst intimates that it might not be another lifetime ‘til they are back on these shores playing again. Here’s hoping – great band, great songs, great gig. We need more like this. Come back soon, please.