The mesmeric energy of the Dodos at full throttle is at odds with their stagecraft. For most of the set, guitarist and vocalist Meric Long remains seated, head bowed towards his guitar as he paints complex, articulate aural landscapes. Such is his ability, you wonder if there are other guitarists hiding in the wings. When he sings, it is usually with eyes closed.

Occasionally, as the crescendo reaches explosion, he will leap up as his right hand disappears in a blur of fingerpicking. Without a guitar strap, this makes for awkward posturing, as he lurches around the stage bent double with the guitar clamped between body and legs.

This largely sedentary style gives an air of a folkish recital, rather than a gig before the appreciative, rather than ecstatic, audience at ULU. Most songs begin sedately, building to a frenzy of drums guitar and Long’s voice, which is often strengthened by an alternative microphone which creates a deeper reverberating echo timbre to his vocals.

While Long is the focus of the set, the Dodos really are an equal partnership. Drummer Logan Kroeber does much more than keep time, as his position down stage suggests. As anyone listening to this year’s 'Visiter' will know, percussion is fundamental to the Dodos’ sound. Whether heavy tribal pounding or higher cracks, former heavy metal drummer Kroeber’s work drives the Dodos as much as Long’s quite breathtaking guitar work. A band without a bass can make for a lack of depth and rhythm, but such is his ability that his thumb gets as much out of the low guitar strings as many a bass player.

There is more than just drums and guitar here though. They occasionally become a trio when joined by yet another percussionist. Some musicians spend months in their laboratories of sound, beavering away to come up with breathtakingly original new sounds to adorn their recordings. Some perhaps may come up with a new percussive effect that sounds not unlike a dustbin being given the hiding of its life. The Dodo’s circumvent all this hard work by recruiting a dustbin onto the stage. Being from San Francisco, they probably call it a trash can. And it certainly is some of the best trash can work I have seen for a while.

Reviews of both 'Visiter' and their live shows suggest there is a certain monotony to the Dodos, that they go on a bit and don’t quite know when to stop for their own good. Repetition is certainly a part of their armoury. This is, however, put to good use, creating a trippy collage of fingerpicking guitar and pulsating drums. If all their songs were of Ramones length, it really wouldn’t work. Here, more really is more.

There is a contradiction to the Dodos style. They can appear heavy handed, viz the trash can, yet also in Meric Lon, they have a guitarist who is measured and accurate, whilst also being a vocalist who can deliver everything from a slight, barely audible murmur to a visceral howl. And to show they have a heart. Half an hour after the gig I noticed one of their minions deliver said trash can, which probably did not have visa to return to America, to an overjoyed fan.

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Commenting On: ULU, London, 16/9/2008 - Dodos

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