LIVE: Teenage Wrist / Paerish / Mouth Culture @ Oslo

By Katherine Allvey
Photo Credit: Joe Calixto

Time means nothing at a Teenage Wrist show. Not for the fans, who all seem to be bearded men in plaid, not for the chilly weather outside, and definitely not for Teenage Wrist. Their live shows occupy a space in our collective imagining of the nineties grunge sound that isn’t separated from the original by forty years. The duo, plus their two touring buddies, make music that conjures up a freshness outside of our established timeline, and it’s gorgeous. 

Somehow, Teenage Wrist have split their sound into two halves and gifted one to each support band. The up-and-coming Mouth Culture capture the murky undertow of the world outside and Teenage Wrist’s own darkness in their coarse and compelling sound. The happy daisy knitted onto vocalist Jack Voss’ jumper is decidedly at odds with his unearthed screams and windmilling energy, and he murky puddles of their sound hide a clarity, like a cloud of iridescent petrol that you can glimpse fresh water through. Imagine a fight between the Streets and Bloc Party in the late eighties, all siren guitar over car crash bass, and you’re halfway to picturing yourself immersed in the haze delight of their live set. 

The other side of the coin is Paerish (pronounced like ‘perish’), who produce dreamlike nineties alt from a slow motion tragic prom flashback. You could close your eyes and float down their gravelly lazy river, finding yourself in the space between each chord before you’re sucked into an anguished Pixies whirlpool. ‘Fix it all’ lights a cold fuse and lets mountains of guitar crumble while ‘Undone’ (‘our very first song ever’) launches booming ironic confetti. “We have a day off in London, but we don’t know where to go?” Vocalist Mathias Court asks the crowd politely. “Colchester!” Someone responds with a scream. For some reason, no one in the crowd knows how to heckle properly, only adding to the slight unreality of the experience. 

Teenage Wrist arrive early onstage, and stand there awkward for a moment. A few folk race in, surprised by their presence, and the rest of us momentarily get up to speed and cheer belatedly. Then, with the power of a single chord, the cloud open and and beam of ‘Sunshine’ pours out, all echoing hope and dramatic slow bridges with a Seattle pulse. ‘Dark Sky’ is a muddy geode of a track: crack through that stomping bass and you’ll find a sparkling crystalline melody that changes form, morphing between tempos, liquid and growling. Kurt would be proud of his descendent as Marshall Gallagher punches out a guitar solo like a theremin and chainsaw combined. The pink curls which frame Gallagher’s face on most of his press photos have now faded to sand and he flicks them back at moments of sincerity. 

“We’ve only been to London twice. I made myself a promise to talk less and play more on this tour and so far it’s not working out,” smiles Gallagher, a rare occurrence. He’s quite shy onstage in contrast with the gutsy music he makes. ‘Dweeb’ (‘another old one’) mines the post punk depths, hitting seams of shining gold. It’s assertive and definite, with a strength underneath. ‘Humbug’ grinding and shovelling guitar throws tightly leashed beats out to the crowd like grenades. In the pause while he tunes his guitar, we begin to shout requests and are rewarded with another smile. “One day we’ll come back and play ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Freebird’ and all of that shit,” he grins before ‘Taste of Gasoline’. The song darker and more punk live, equal parts defiant and dangerous. His voice rises from the ashes of the distortion like an escaping phoenix. Most people here are seeing Teenage Wrist live for the first time, but we’re word perfect on ‘Stoned, Alone’, our voices almost hidden through the ‘wall of white voice’ which Gallagher complains of hearing through his monitor and his bottomless mic echoes. The chorus is transformed into a comforting refrain, no longer a lament of isolation. The gentle stardust of memory settles on our shoulders for ‘Sparkle/Fade’, close and distant before the beat kicks in and, comet-like, the song burns away into the cosmos. 

There’s no encore because, as Gallagher explains, what would be the point? Goth chimes and punk spiralling rage herald the end of the show via ‘Earth Is A Black Hole’. Our singalong tastes of despair and anger but also appreciation for what Teenage Wrist have become in the wake of multiple reinventions while Gallagher’s piercing guitar trapezes into inky darkness. Then, a quick wave, and they’re gone. Somehow four hours have passed in a blink as we’ve been submerged into their grunge world. With any luck, the time between this tour and their next will pass just as rapidly, because six years is far too long a gap between their innovative and heartfelt visits.