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Live Review: Postal Service @ Brixton Academy, 20/05/13

Matt Tomiak considers the wistful history of The Postal Service as he at long last watches them play live at the Brixton Academy.

If a week is a long time in politics, then The Postal Service would surely agree that a decade is one hell of a long time in music. At the start of 2013, the beloved US indietronica collective announced plans to reform for a world tour after nigh-on ten years of inactivity, reaching London for the second of two sold-out shows at Brixton Academy. Their first (and to date, only) album Give Up was also to be granted a deluxe, re-mastered 10th Anniversary Edition release. Developed via recordings mailed between core members Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, a process that gave the band its name, Give Up comprised ten tracks of quixotic computerized introversion. It sold a shedload for Sub Pop and created an enduring mystique around its creators, who throughout the noughties rebuffed calls for a follow-up. Not that the key personnel would stand charges of indolence: the intervening period has been particularly eventful for vocalist Gibbard, via his day job as leader of the now-massive Death Cab For Cutie.

It’s all Grammy nominations and Billboard Top 200-topping albums for DCFC these days, but back at the time of Give Up’s original release, the sensitive Seattle indie-rockers were still signed to an independent label and little-known outside hip Pacific Northwestern circles. TPS’s bleepy, wistful signature tune ‘Such Great Heights’ was also yet to receive the reputation-enhancing makeover from Iron & Wine that featured alongside The Shins on the soundtrack of Zach Braff’s 2004 college-angst dramedy, Garden State. It helps that they’re steeped in a certain kind of electronic pop classicism, with a set-up that owes something to the classic Pet Shop Boys dynamic. Tamborello fills the Chris Lowe role, hidden behind a bank of laptops, with Gibbard acting as the Neil Tennant-style focal point, and the gushing sincerity and cute, slightly cornball boy/girl vocal interplay that charmed fans the first time around remain firmly intact. But the ‘band called The Postal Service from the West Coast of America’ as Gibbard’s welcome has it here following the throbbing bass opening of ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight’, are hardly wide-eyed youngsters more.

Gibbard and Tamborello, alongside touring companion Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley are all now pushing 40, yet there’s still plenty of affection in the packed room. ‘Love? It’s a BITCH’ winks Gibbard by way of introduction to ‘Nothing Better’, a hokey-yet-endearing duet with Lewis. ‘Thanks for still caring after all these years!’ he chirps as Such Great Heights sends the Academy into raptures, The Little Cult Act That Could finally reaping their long-awaited dividends.

- Matt Tomiak

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