Weekend Recovery / Pulverise / Helle – Headrow House, Leeds, 3rd February 2022

Posted: 8 February 2022 in Live
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This is my first time at Headrow House in ages. Literally years. May 2019, to be precise, when Big Joanie supported Charly Bliss. It’s remarkable to reflect on that, now that Big Joanie are playing truly huge venues as the support for IDLES. This, of course, is, in a nutshell, why we need grassroots venues, and why it’s worth arriving in decent time and checking out the support acts. Tonight is another case in point.

But first, on arrival, I realise how much you forget. Like I’d forgotten how the downstairs bar is so loud and busy, and thought there was a larger selection of beers. Upstairs in the gig space, it’s less loud or busy, but then, it’s early doors, and I need a refill before the music starts.

Helle are up first, and they simply blow everyone away. They’re intense, fierce. Authentic, angry old-school punk, the female-led act employ S&M imagery in both their songs and appearance. It’s in your face in the best possible way – forceful, confrontational, strong, with edge.

It’s an unusual experience hearing two bands cover the same song just a few days apart, and noting the difference: against Healthy Junkies’ solid but standard rendition, Helle’s cover of ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’ is a feedback-soaked stompfest and kicks all kinds of arse. The singer possesses real presence, strutting and swaying, and has big, gutsy vocals to match: she’s raging, alright, and channelling the spirit of the late 70s all the way.

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Helle

Railing against the government, railing against the patriarchy, etc., etc., may seem old and standard, but 45 years since punk broke, it’s still relevant – which is depressing. In context, Elton John’s ‘Benny and the Jets’ seems like an unpunk song to cover, but they kill it, hard, while closer ‘Pornography’ goes hardcore. It doesn’t get better than this.

Pulverise bring a different kind of intensity, the Leeds five-piece collective being unashamedly nu-metal/rap-metal/sports metal in their stylings. With a 5-string bass chug and two guitars laying down slabs of distortion, it’s a full-on kick with a keen sense of groove. It’s very much a Judgement Night Soundtrack kind of groove at that, and the RATM influence on the sound, if not the subjects, is also apparent. And then they whip out a metal cover of’ ‘Insane in the Brain’ that sounds like Pitch Shifter and then it segues into ‘We Ain’t Going Out Like That’: it certainly illustrates the band’s vintage, and it’s good fun in a retro, kinda sports metal way.

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Pulverise

Weekend Recovery change their lineup more often than Lauren changes the colour of her hair, and so it is that the band on stage tonight isn’t the same I saw at Long Division in Wakefield in September last year, and the lineup launching the EP isn’t the one that played on its recording. On the one hand, it’s rather a shame: on the other, onwards and upwards, and the current lineup may well be their tightest yet.

Ant & Dec’s ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble’ makes for a corny but fun intro tape, and it bleeds into the Countdown Countdown for the band to rush onstage against the clock… badum, badum, badaladum… boshh! And they’re straight in with ‘Radiator’, the opener from sophomore album False Company.

The bass sounds like twigs rattling in a bag, scratching away during this first song, but everything comes together soon after. The sound and lighting are top notch, even if the stage show is channelling The Sisters of Mercy circa 1985, with Lori in particular so swathed in smoke as to be barely visible for the majority of the show. They slay ‘In the Mourning’ early in the set, and it’s a varied one, showcasing tracks from the new ‘No Guts’ EP as would be expected for a launch event.

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Weekend Recovery

And oh yes, the EP is a solid 4 songs, as Lori pointed out to me from the stage, although only two of them feature in the set, which draws heavily on recent second album False Company. The first of these is ‘It’s Obvious’, a slow-burner with a mid-80s feel. Early single ‘Out of Control’ is played at breakneck speed, on account of Lori having a moment while programming the backing.

Across the set, they showcase tunes that could and would be immense given the right exposure. It’s followed by the rarely-aired heart-rending new tattoo before getting back to full-throttle energy with turn it up, the only song from their debut album: it’s very much a forward-facing set, with very few further reaches into the back catalogue.

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Weekend Recovery

Forster channels Suzi Quattro, and not just on account of her getup: she’s all the rock up there and has come into her own as a performer since tasking on the role of sole guitarist as well as singer. A kick-ass ‘Zealot’ prefaces set closer and ep lead ‘No Guts, All the Glory’ which is perhaps their strongest single to date, and rounding off a strong set to round off a night of great performances.

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