ACL Review: Ought
Montreal post-punks rouse Saturday morning slumber
By Libby Webster,
8:45AM, Sun. Oct. 8, 2017
“I’m no longer afraid to die, ’cause that is all that I have left,” proclaimed Tim Darcy brightly late on Saturday morning at the HomeAway stage. The Ought frontman’s lyrical admission came abruptly during the prickly, post-punk sprawl of “Beautiful Blue Sky,” a clean break from the track rattling off of an endless list of small-talk pleasantries.
In the reflection of Darcy’s circular sunglasses, a stretch of blue sky loomed above the 50 or so people who’d made their way early to Zilker Park for Ought’s sweltering, 11:30am set. Despite two critically adored LPs on Constellation Records and a recent signing to revered indie Merge, the Canadians’ time slot rendered a modest-at-best audience. Then again, a band that plies the same biting edge as post-punk contemporaries Protomartyr and Parquet Courts, as well as the cerebral posturing of David Byrne, is already surprise programming for ACL.
The Montreal fourpiece, joined by a fifth stage member fleshing out the sound with violin, additional keys, and guitar, opened with the title track from 2015’s Sun’s Coming Down. As vicious as Ought’s sonics can get, the band favors a stand-in-one-place approach to performing. Every tiny movement comes off as momentous, whether it’s a subtle sashay or finger wag from Darcy’s spindly frame.
Needling guitar lines continuously prodded beneath stories of increasingly desperate boredom. It’s unclear if Darcy’s narrators were born too cool for school, or if their disaffected posture stems from giving up on giving a shit. Across Ought’s 35-minute set, from debut More Than Any Other Day’s gnawing “Habit” and “The Weather Song” to three new tracks, the band showcased its propensity for deconstructing and rebuilding songs – isolating instrumental parts that devolved into stretches of amorphous, prodding punk.