The Unicorns fuzzed-out death pop has been highly touted of late, but their Ottawa debut was one of those shows where the opening act proves more interesting than the headliner.

The Besnard Lakes’ new LP has been described as psyche pop, but a heavy Sonic Youth influence seems a more likely source for their performance (admittedly, that the band’s core is a husband and wife team does serve to exaggerate the comparison).

The band did take frequent, lengthy tuning breaks — a good idea with three guitars, it must be said. They also split the set in half for a quick spelling bee: Contestant: “K-A-L-E-I-D-A ...” Audience: “Groan!”  (Fortunately, the second attempt, by an audience member who terminated his cigarette outside so he could snag the offered prize CD, succeeded in spelling “kaleidoscope” — on with the show!)

Despite these japes, the band’s dedication to extreme volume won over those members of the audience not deafened for life.

After that crushing performance, even matching pink stage duds, an excellent drummer, a whole lotta shakin’ and amusing banter could not save the Unicorns’ performance from seeming a bit limp by comparison. Their record is great, but live ... well, they might want to pick up a member or two to round out their sound. They were good, but outclassed (and definitely out-volumed). Most of the large, youngish crowd seemed thrilled by the show, but a few harsh words were heard from a few of the departing scenesters. The Unicorns intend to return to Ottawa in the near future; hopefully they’ll face a quieter, less competent opening act, and they’ll have tightened things up themselves.

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Commenting On: Zaphod's, Ottawa, 7/4/2004 - Unicorns with Besnard Lakes

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