In the four years since Architecture in Helsinki’s last album Places Like This, pop has changed a fair whack. The Melbourne collective may have stood a little aghast as the danceable weirdness and kooky charm they made their trademark (along with kindred spirits Tilly and the Wall, Alphabeat and I’m From Barcelona) permeated the radio-friendly mainstream in their absence in the shape of Gaga, Perry, Dragonette, Kanye, Girls Aloud and so forth.
How best to regain ground, then? Not necessarily with a show that starts (and finishes) so early it’s virtually still light when we leave the venue, that’s for sure. Architecture in Helsinki belong in a club, at 1am, when the room’s been jumping for hours and the tequila’s flowing. But ‘It’5’ reminds us that for all their small-hours dancefloor-friendliness, AiH are equally adept at wonky Talking Headsy chantalongs.
At times proceedings are so completely saturated in the soul of the ‘80s that the gig feels like an actual attempt to re-soundtrack Pretty In Pink, live. Understated half-ballad ‘W.O.W.’, from shiny new album Moment Bends, is straight-up magnificent, singer Kellie Sutherland channelling Cyndi Lauper with charm despite tonight going for the psychedelic Su Pollard look. Cameron Bird, for his part, paces the stage in a white T-shirt and granddad slacks, like he’s a couple of personal disasters away from pulling the full Falling Down. It’s a peculiar mix but it keeps us watching.
Huge, heartbroken pop is what Architecture in Helsinki do best, of course, and as two newies ‘I Know Deep Down’ and ‘Denial Style’ join tear-stained hands for a jerky boogie it’s increasingly obvious that their Prince obsession hasn’t receded a jot. They seem like a bunch of mates mucking about, for the most part, which is fine when you’re fresh on the scene, but their lack of overt professionalism might start to pall for some a decade down the line.
Kellie is all kinds of awesome nonetheless, and her infectious enthusiasm is starting to snake around the room like a plume of disco smoke. The opening bars of ‘That Beep’ prompt cheers and grins all round – you’d never know it was spanking new. It’s little surprise Hot Chip are fans – the two bands share a confidently playful, hedonistic edge and a desire to sneak intriguing ideas into oddly commercial tunes, embodied in the keyboard player’s insouciant robot dancing and assertion to the crowd that “you will dance – eventually”.
By the time ‘Do The Whirlwind’ swings round, the beardy bassist is quietly ruling the school like the older brother in the back bedroom, finally given the spotlight. There is, however, an impression that Architecture in Helsinki are so happy with their tunes they think they don’t need to work on how they’re presented, which is a big mistake. Tonight feels like it’s been pulled together on a shoestring – and indeed it probably has been, given the punitive cost of trans-hemispheric travel – but they’re the kind of band who’d greatly benefit from a little onstage pizzazz.
But still, their personalities shine through, and as (totally Hot Chip) album finale ‘B43D’ draws the evening to a low-key close, the previous hour’s unashamed, unaffected entertainment leaves us with the feeling that Architecture In Helsinki shouldn’t be the well-kept secret they still seem to be. If Hurts can have a gold album, AiH are in with more than a decent shot – just let ‘em in.