What does it take to distinguish an album launch from a regular gig? A sense of occasion is definitely a major factor, and having built themselves a pretty formidable reputation as a live act, and showcased some killer tunes in the run-up to the release of their second album, NARCS have set this launch up nicely. Said new album is a real step up, harder edged and heavier than its predecessor, and is an album of our times. And where else could it be than at the Brudenell, the venue stands at the very heart of the vibrant Leeds scene? It takes some chops to invite Fighting Caravans to support, given that they’re one of those bands who are capable of blowing pretty much any act off the stage.
Perhaps not so much guitar and drum duo Mouses. Fronted by an androgynous nerd in heinous trousers, their glammy indie punk teeters on the brink of parody. But cranking out chords from one of the most fucked-looking yet still functional guitars I’ve seen, they’re lively and good fun and do the job of getting the crowd warmed up nicely.
It’s pretty packed by the time Fighting Caravans take to the stage, Daniel Clark looking most fetching in full toreador getup. Their seven-track set shuns pretty much all of their debut EP, but does feature ‘In Sicily’, the b-side of their latest single release, which is corking. The small stage doesn’t allow much room for movement, but Clark can only be contained so long and sure enough, before the set’s out he’s disappeared to somewhere near the back of the venue.
It’s rammed and absolutely fucking roasting before NARCS go on, and the cliché of the atmosphere being electric is entirely justified. They’re fired up, alright, and so are the crowd. Radiating waves of aggression, strident in their demeanour, front man Wilko’s face set in a scowl while guitarist Joe peels off sinewy guitar lines, pinned down by a full-throttle rhythm section, they’re on full power from the get-go as they kick off with ‘Mile Die’. The set’s focused primarily on the new album, the taut, highly-charged post-punk blast of energy that is A Thinking Animal, with ‘19’ and ‘Coast to Coast’ from their 2013 debut airing around the mid-point.
Songs like ‘Bullingdon Boys’ and ‘Head Boy Sonnet’ give a fair indication of the primary targets of their fury, and there are some hefty riffs behind the venomous politically-charged lyrical delivery, too. A perfect and momentous gig requires the coming together of band and audience, and the show ends with Wilko being lofted around the venue above the crowd, the guitarist somewhere in the melee and drummer slumped on the floor behind a kit in disarray, amidst strewn guitars and trailing cables, which is a fitting climax to an intense and euphoric night. Most definitely an album launch, and not a regular gig.