Friday, November 26
TEETH is a four-piece comprised of Luke Buda (Phoenix Foundation), David Long (The Mutton Birds), Ant Donaldson (The Labcoats) and Tom Callwood (Phoenix Foundation) and in line with recently releasing a new single the group played a Friday night residency across November at Meow. Four shows, one per week. A different opener each night but then TEETH – with its set of music; you can recognise in the writing the sorts of tunes Buda might present to The Phoenix Foundation but these treatments remove, for a start, the keyboards, synths and spacey textures, this version of Luke Buda Music – and it’s not just that, it’s most certainly an outlet for the other three players too – is one served with, well, bite. TEETH is grinning dad-rock with harmony guitar lines. TEETH is sinewy psychedelic rock, never quite a jam-band but with those instincts and talents, Callwood’s bass – in particular – seems to anchor the group, stopping them just short of falling over into wayward improvisatory indulgence. Instead, we get tunes that do fall away into the clattering percussion Donaldson knows best, we get songs that can’t ever escape the signature tones of the guitarists (and why would you want to – I heard shades of those mean, lean, wonderful lines from Dominion Road and White Valiant because I wanted to hear those shades, as much as because they were there).
I didn’t watch all four shows, but I was there for the first one. And the last.
If Friday, November 4 was slightly shaky it still had the requisite energy and when Donaldson sat tight behind the songs he took on a role similar to John Densmore in The Doors; an overt jazziness and tendency for flourish kept on the simmer thanks to the self-imposed rigidity of a backbeat; the cymbal shimmering and shining as he whipped it in time with each tune, to mark – and make – the time and space and place within each tune. Buda and Long had the beginnings of wonderful interplay, starting in sync, falling away, reconnecting without looking.
By the time of Friday, November 26, all of this was nailed. Buda and Long’s guitars talking to each other through and over and in each moment in each and every song. Callwood’s bass driving along like a rhythm guitar, but pulling up when needed, locked in to peek out in the spaces between Donaldson’s snare and kick.
And the songs – snarly, sarcastic, lively – are really starting to show themselves.
There’s an album in the can, and we should hopefully hear it – out in the open – next year. And there’s always the hope of more shows. A couple up in Auckland first and then, luckily I’m sure, Wellington will get more.
As they powered on through the set it started to feel like a run of Greatest Hits; all this from a band with a new single out. One song. That’s it. But all of the work they’ve all done in so many other line-ups is not only evident, it’s part of the story of TEETH. Across a month at Meow they got to harness and hone that. I’m glad I was there for the best of it.