Brooklyn band Mothxr made a mighty return to the UK with a brilliant live set at Dingwalls. The four-piece supported The Neighbourhood earlier this year, playing other top Camden venue Roundhouse. Their return to London, this time for a headline set, was met with rapturous applause from a packed audience of young and old alike.
Penn Badgley, Simon Oscroft, Darren Will and Jimmy Giannopoulos came together to form Mothxr in LA about two years ago. On their first night of jamming together they produced Impossible which was to become the first track on Centrefold. Lead singer Penn, who rose to fame playing Dan Humphrey in hit US TV series Gossip Girl, has made a seamless transition from screen to stage, bringing his dedicated GG fans with him. But he’s clearly shrugged off the clean-cut, wholesome TV heartthrob look and successfully carved a new career in the alt music scene.
Centrefold, the band’s debut album is conceptual and artfully created, carrying a narrative thread from start to finish. Many of the tracks on the album have a minimal, stripped-back vibe but in a live setting Mothxr bring another dimension to every single one.
Easy, arguably the track that first brought the band to prominence, has a glitchy, ultra-cool barely there sound but was amped-up almost beyond recognition when played live. The same can be said for title track Centrefold: the recorded version has a very polished, contained sound but live Mothxr push the track to the limit and Penn unleashes a raw, unrestricted vocal.
Victim, one of my fave tracks off the album has a dark edge with a deep bassy background set off against Penn’s deep, brooding vocals. An abundance of electronic beats add multiple layers to the track and the trumpet interlude really sets it apart on the album. Another fave, Underground, mixes a deep bass with an addictive guitar riff and echoing intermittent beats.
Fight the Feeling is an all-round more upbeat track that opens with a much faster paced beat that momentarily parts to make way for Penn’s moody vocals while I Can See You’ll Never Make It Out combines trap-esque beats with electronically manipulated vocals.
As the set was winding down there was time for one last track and of course this honour fell to Touch. The stand-out track has an effortless 80s elecro vibe with its bubbling synths and poppy, atmospheric keys. The performance was akin to steeping into an underground New York club in the 80s and the boys treated the wild crowd to an extra-long instrumental to play themselves out. Amped up and still wanting more, cheers of “encore” broke out as the band vacated the stage. Penn returned moments later to announce “we have no more songs to play. We literally played the whole record!” If this crowd reaction is anything to go by then the band will certainly be making a return to the UK soon!
Mothxr’s sound doesn’t fit comfortably into any category and feels effortlessly fresh. Their label Maison Kitsuné is renowned for having the best bands in the in alternative and electronic scene and on their books they’re certainly onto a winner with Mothxr. I for one am more than a little excited to see how the band progresses and how their unique sound evolves.
Check out the throwback 80s-themed video for Touch below and if that’s left you intrigued for more have a listen to some of the other tracks from Centrefold here.