As if the promise of hearing Post War Glamour Girls’ third album in its entirety on the day of its release in the best venue anywhere ever wasn’t quite enough of a draw, then the addition of Blacklisters to the bill had clincher written all over it.
Billy’s chugging red wine from a plastic cup and Dan’s guitar’s feeding back continuously as they piledrive into ‘Swords’ to start the set. Billy’s down in front of the stage, limbs gangling as he sways and lurches around unpredictably. The feedback between songs proves to be an issue throughout the set and becomes a running gag, but it doesn’t blight the music itself, and a thunderous ‘Shirts’ is dispatched early on. Most of the set is culled from second album, Adult, which makes for a succession of brutal riffs, and with the band playing in near darkness, it doesn’t make for an easy gig from an audience perspective. But then, since when were Blacklisters about making things easy? That said, they do round the set off with a couple of crowd-pleasers from the back catalogue, in the shape of ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’ and, of course, the obligatory ‘Trick Fuck’.
Having spent the last two months listening to Post War Glamour Girls’ Swan Songs on almost a loop, I knew exactly what to expect from Leeds’ finest tonight, and it looks as though there are a few others in the room who’ve had the privilege of an advance listen. For the remainder, though, only a handful of tracks have been streamed on-line (that, and a spin of ‘Big Trip’ on Radio 1 a couple of weeks back).
James Smith leads the band on and sets the tone in typically brazen style, promising a set with ‘none of that old shite – fuck that.’ “Progressive – move forward,” he says, setting a pitch which pretty much encapsulates the band’s ethos as it’s been from day one. You can bet that by the end of the tour, half of tonight’s set will have been ditched as being ‘old shite’ in favour of material in development for album number four.
There aren’t many albums, even among the ones I would consider my favourites and would happily listen to day in, day out, that I’d actually want to hear played in sequence live. A live set is simply a very different animal, and while it’s generally done to reserve the best material for the end of a show, the album format more often places the stronger tracks to the fore – or in the case of great albums where the songs are all consistently strong, then there’s a greater attention to the balance of the material. So, what tonight’s set highlights is just what a diverse and well-sequenced as well as consistent album Swan Songs is.
Yes, it opens with a hooky indie rock tune in the shape of ‘Guiding Light’ before piling in with one of my personal favourites, ‘Chipper’. Eighty percent of bands would plummet into a descent for the remainder of the set having shot their load at the start, but with the softer, subtle nagging groove of ‘Gull Rips a Worm to Rags,’ Post War Glamour Girls change tone and tempo but without tailing off. The band are sounding good and very much together, and the sound quality out front is excellent – which is a good thing as there’s an awful lot of detail and texture on Swan Songs of the kind often lost in a performance setting.
Smith dominates the stage, prowling and hollering, occasionally stepping to the edge of the stage and looming into the crowd as he moves into messianic rant mode: this is Post War Glamour Girls at their best, at home in front of a receptive audience and jamming out some hard volume.
Post War Glamour Girls
Another reason Swan Songs works as a live set is because it actually does pick up the page and the edge toward the end, and after the bruising pop dynamics of ‘Pollyanna Cowgirl’, the delicately chiming ‘Golden Time’, and the lugubrious reflections of ‘Sea of Rains’, ‘Welfare by Prozac’ cranks up the angular angst with its sinewy guitars, thumping drums and thick, rolling bass.
I’ve already frothed effusively about the album’s climactic closer, ‘Divine Decline,’ and sure enough, they more than do it justice on the night. And, as the stage is deluged in thousands upon thousands of white feathers, it feels like a fitting finale to a proper album launch.
Post War Glamour Girls
They leave the stage briefly (to get more beer, it’s not a fucking encore, we’re told) and return with ‘Sestra,’ which affords Smith the opportunity to give full throat to his hollering style, and returning to the epic closers they excel at, end the set with an immense rendition of ‘Cannonball Villages’, where, incredibly, they step it up a gear for the closing minutes. Finally, they depart in a screed of feedback and a drifting carpet of feathered carnage. Swan Songs has officially landed.