Posts Tagged ‘York’

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a very long while since scuzz-punk rock duo Mannequin Death Squad came to our shores, and even longer since they last set foot in York – but hailing from Melbourne, Australia, it’s been quite a while since they’ve set foot anywhere outside their province, with now fewer than six lockdowns and more than 260 days under restrictions during the pandemic, which led to Victoria’s state capital to be dubbed the “world’s most locked down city”, according to the BBC. Hardly conducive conditions for a band who thrive on playing live.

MDS seems to have harnessed all of that pent-up energy for this month-long UK tour, scheduled at relatively short notice, but before they’re on, they’ve got a solid bill of local talent in support, too (let’s face it, four bands for £7, you can’t go wrong), and first on, up-and-coming KissKissKill (styled as XXK so as to avoid any iffy connotations, and who’ve been around a while but seem to be finally kicking things up a notch) prove to be a solid opener giving an assured performance. Their sound may bet kinda standard rock with some big guitar solos, but they’ve got a good level of energy and enthusiasm. Singer Gemma-Louise performs with her eyes as well as with powerful lungs, and she’s backed by some solid riffs and she bounces around a lot: they all do, apart from the bassist who hides at the back behind his straightened hair. They’re a lot of fun, and clearly have potential for great things.

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KissKissKill

Ketamine Kow bring mouth frothing energy and aggression. They’ve had their songs shared on Twitter by Sleaford Mods. The front-cunt’s proper mental and the songs are almost secondary to the spasmodic energy as he charges around maniacally, getting in people’s faces and generally creating a disruptive energy. I mean, there seems to be something not quite right about the guy, but this is the spectacle of a performer who lives every second of the performance for real. Like a young Iggy Pop, it’s all for the moment. There are some squalling riffs and pounding percussion going on behind the manic screaming and shouting. Ketamine Kow could well be the new Baby Godzilla: with the exception of the drummer, who also provides strong second vocals, the band spend as much time in the crowd than on stage, the singer everywhere all at once, hollering from the back of the room, leering in and looming over the crowd, or writhing on the floor. Skinny white boys with gangly limbs, you can’t imagine that being in a band is likely to help any of the members of Ketamine Kow to pull: they’re sweary, sweaty, raw, authentic punk, and so, so angry – and fucking brilliant.

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Ketamine Kow

The Bricks Draw the Line at the start of the set, and they seem to get sharper, more solid, more meaty with every outing, and singer Gemma is more confident and more commanding than ever. The sound is a perfect amalgamation of juggernaut bass with choppy stuttering riffs that splinter onto shards, with heavy hints of Gang of Four and Wire with martial beats. In terms of performance, Gemma doesn’t ‘do’ much – no bouncing about, no, posing: she doesn’t have to. The voice is immense, and is all the presence, allowing the three middle-aged blokes (no criticism, especially as they’re clearly having a blast playing the songs and have the sound absolutely nailed) to fade into the noisy background.

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It’s gone 10:45 when Mannequin Death Squad start, but when they do it’s incendiary: the set is back to back killers, heavily raiding their 2016 debut mini-album ‘Eat Hate Regurgitate’ alongside songs released on-line since and brand new material, too. They’re loud and they’re tight with a full sound, the dual vocals really defining the sound over the big, grungy riffs. They play hard and fierce. ‘Sick’ lands third before a new track off the forthcoming debut album. Elly’s eyes lol up into her head as she kicks out the riffs. The mid-set instrument switch seems to take it up a notch, and Dan steps out from behind the drums to take over the guitar and lead vocals, and stomps the stage fiercely. Meanwhile, the hi hat’s fucked and zip on her trousers is bust, but still Elly doesn’t miss a beat. They’re committed, alright. Live shows don’t come better than this.

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Mannequin Death Squad

Things are running late and curfews are a kicker for most venues these days, especially those in residential areas, so they’re forced to truncate the set a little – and so what it lacks in duration, they compensate in energy, turning the small venue into a total sweatbox as they deliver the title track from their forthcoming debut album, ‘Super Mental Psycho’ as the penultimate song, and it’s blistering. We’re all wiped and melting by the end, and while there’s no chance of an encore, the rush to the merch and to chat to the band after showed the level of appreciation. And rightly so – they’re one of those bands who never disappoint.

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no escaping politics and economics, even when you go to gigs as your primary mode of escape from life. When people are struggling to make ends meet, going out is a luxury for many. This is truly a tragedy. With the ‘cost of living crisis’, as it’s being billed (because everything has to have a name, a brand now), crippling pubs and clubs and individuals alike as hard as Covid restrictions and lockdowns did, gigs like this are incredibly welcome: a showcase of emerging local talent for a quid, at a venue where a decent hand-pulled (local) pint costs £4.

Perspex in particular have been building quite a buzz in recent months, but had almost completely bypassed me, so curiosity coupled with the simple urge to go and see some live music meant that a quid seemed like a safe enough punt, especially when the venue’s in easy walking distance.

Given that it’s a race night on which Madness are playing at the racecourse and there’s a sold-out gig at The Vaults with other rising local talents, it’s an impressive turnout at the 400-capacity venue as Captain Starlet take the stage.

Christ, they look young. Like bands starting out in 1979. Ill-fitting shirts and striped t-shirts, Vox and Rickenbacker guitars. They’ve not yet figured out haircuts or grown into their faces, but have fashioned some tidy indie tunes. It’s a bit jangly, a bit C86, it’s well played but ultimately kinda middling. And then it goes country, and all the moustache and suit-sporting Nick Cave rip-offs start having a hoedown down the front. I realise I don’t understand anything anymore.

Captain Starlet

Captain Starlet

Trueman start off promisingly, with some bold sax action reminiscent of the Psychedelic Furs. But it rapidly descends into a quality performance of average music. My mate suggests Razorlight as a comparison, and he’s right. There’s much movement and arm waving from the sixth-formers down the front.

People really love bland shit. I know I should be supportive of new bands, but these reek entitlement. They’re not as good as they think they are.

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Trueman & the Indoor League

Perspex: great name, sharp look (some of them are the suit and shades wearing posers who were getting down to Captain Starlet), lame, forgettable songs. I persevere for a while before retiring to the bar. They’re still audible, and actually sound better from there, but still ultimately forgettable. There’s a steady trickle of departures during their set, so it’s not just me. They weren’t terrible, just terribly average, and when there are a million average bands knocking about, there’s simply no need for any more.

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Perspex

But for all that, it was a good night: people enjoyed themselves without interfering with others or spoiling their nights. People enjoyed the bands and didn’t gab on through them, and the vibe was good. The bands played well and the sound was good, so much credit is due to bands, fans and venue. There’s definitely a market there, and potentially, a large one. I wish them all the best of luck.

Christopher Nosnibor

Seems like gigs at the Vaults are cursed when I go. Just as headliners Witch of the East cancelled the last time I was down, so PAK40 have had to bail due to Covid. Yep, over two years on and it’s still having a significant impact on live music. But the good news is that REDFYRN are worth turning out for, as previous outings have shown, and even prior to PAK40’s withdrawal, it had the air of a double-header.

It’s fucking melting. I mean, I’m drinking cider, it’s that mafting. And I’m sweating it out faster than I can drink it. My skin is like a sieve or muslin bag. It must be absolutely punishing on stage.

Openers Beswick get off to a bit of a ragged start. But then, it is their first gig in three years, and they’re not looking like the kind of band who get tour-tight. It would be wrong to complain about the lack of guitar definition with a black metal band, and they lean towards the lower, slower end, where everything slips into a sludgy mid-range mesh, thanks to the five-string bass and seven-string guitar and the most fuckedest cymbal I’ve seen in use in a long time.

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Beswick

The main vocalist has three distinct styles: a penetrating, shivering squawk, a low growl, and a cleanish, atonal punk snarling shout, which actually works at least half of the time as they swing towards a dingy punk style at various points during the set. They do seem like a band in a bit of a stylistic quandary as they slither hither and thither, but they’re solid entertainment. The final song is a nod to their previous incarnation as Tokechamber, and sees the set conclude with billowing drone doom chords and feedback. I would have happily watched that for an hour.

REDFYRN start as they mean to go on, bringing the riffs slow and steady, with more five-string bass groove through an immense effects rack. The bassist has bounding energy, smashing every note with fists and feet, and the weighty guitars contrast with the soaring vocals. Big brave but stoner with a bluesy twist, chunky gritty riffs.

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REDFYRN

The solos aren’t overdone, and showcase the fact Cat Redfern is an excellent guitarist on a technical level as well as being a heavy hitter. She plays with only a handful of pedals, but a lot of crunch and a big dense sound and big volume.

A big hairy moshpit happened during the last song, and the half dozen beardy guys going crackers down the front was enough to bring the band back for one more, and they encore with ‘Unreal’, to an even more vibrant response. For a hot Thursday night when people would have likely been lured to a beer garden to toast the announcement of the Prime Minister’s departure, albeit at some time in the future, and for a stand-in headline slot, REDFYRN delivered a commanding performance and owned the night. Having only recently found themselves in headline slots, REDFYRN look ready to take it to the next level.

Christopher Nosnibor

It may sound perverse, but I find metal gigs to be highly therapeutic. I suppose it’s the escapism – the release of fury from the stage working like some kind of Reiki, drawing the tension out and casting it into the air.

I didn’t really do much research beforehand – because sometimes, it’s nice just to rock up, see some bands, and drink some beer. Especially on a Sunday afternoon. It’s bloody boiling, which means I’m going to bee needing quite a bit of beer to keep hydrated, and I arrive just in time to get a pint in before the first act.

Grunk are pretty much classic grind, with two vocalists. They’re raw and ragged, with a lot of drum, but not a lot of guitar. They’ve plenty of grunt and humour, too. They’re not very good, but aren’t trying to be, quipping about the proper bands being on after, and they’re a fun opener, their set concluding with the rotund main shouter rolling around on the floor in front of the stage.

It wouldn’t be a proper dirty metal gig in / near Leeds without Steve Myles doing something, and here he’s Sulking, doing shouting instead of drumming for a change. Instrumentally, Sulk are another guitar and drum setup, but sound altogether more meaty, and consequently all the more grindy. Their tightly-structured songs pack all the heft, all the pace, and Myles pages the stage menacingly while delivering raw-throated rage. They’re absolutely brutal, and one of the best bands of the night.

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Sulk

It’s been a few years since I last caught Deathmace. They’re very much at the thrash end of the spectrum, with some frenzied guitar solos, and a sound filled out with a second guitar and bass, too. Too earnest to be truly menacing, the singer speaks normally between songs but growls the song titles when announcing them, and made me think of the recent movie, Metal Lords. They’re very obviously complete metal nerds (although the drummer is wearing a Yes T-shirt), singing about death, coffins, maggots and large fish, but can genuinely play, and being a local band with a strong following, go down a storm.

It’s truly oven-like in the venue by now, and everyone clears out to the beer garden, and consequently most of them miss the first half of Wolfbastard’s set, which is definitely their loss. The trio’s scratchy bass sound blends into the incendiary treble of the overloading guitar wall of noise. Bassist Si’s barking vocal contrasts with the guitarist Dez’s sandpapered screech, and it’s a stonking set off crusty black metal, which is exactly what I came for.

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Wolfbastard

Cryptic Shift are big hair and pointy guitars, and the first thought is ‘Megadeth’. It so happens that’s also my second thought, too. Granted, they’re a bit more death/black than that, but seem to take the remainder of their cues from Venom. They’re supremely technical and super-serious and megafast, but the bass sounds like arse and there’s so much endless harmonics and fretwanking it’s… well, of course it’s a matter of taste, but the singer plays every inch of the fretboard, and uses all 36 pedals, and it’s impressive and all, but it’s just not particularly fun. They drink a lot of water.

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Cryptic Shift

For Foetal Juice front man Dez, this is his second set of the night, and what a set it is. Foetal Juice are grind heavyweights in every way. Without the restriction of an instrument, Dez charges back and forth across the stage, fist pumping and finger pointed. There’s little commentary required: it’s death metal, played as it should be, and they sound exactly as the name suggests. They slam down the heavy noise relentlessly, and it’s a magnificently riffy, gnarly affair, and a mosh frenzy ensues. Fucking yes. This is what we came for.

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Foetal Juice

Christopher Nosnibor

With neither band having previously played in York before 2022, it’s three months to the week since Healthy Junkies and Yur Mum last played in this very room, and on the same lineup as part of the Lips Can Kill Tour, and it’s the third time here for Healthy Junkies, who supported The Kut here in January. And it’s great to have them both back, and although it’s a bit of a standard York on a Wednesday night turnout, those present more than compensate the small numbers with their demonstrations of appreciation, getting going down the front.

It is a while before things get going. Sure, I’m here to write about the music. But a long wait for the music when I didn’t think to bring a book makes for some tedious downtime. Scheduling and communication do matter, as the time I missed the headliners because they were due on around midnight, a full half hour after the last train back to York from Leeds illustrates perfectly. These things are ok if advertised in advance, but can be problematic if not. Opening doors at seven but not having a band on before nine without advertising stage times – or the fact that the headliners have pulled out – beforehand wasn’t the absolute worst, but sitting around on your tod for an hour and a half when you’ve got stuff you could have been doing is a bit of a chew, and midweek, I’d take an early finish over a late start any time.

Still, there’s decent beer on tap at fair prices, and supping a couple of pints of Oakham Citra while they spin some decent tunes over the PA is far from the worst way to kill time. And the bar staff are great, and the bands are without doubt worth the wait, and one thing about the Vaults is that the sound is spot on – and at a volume appropriate for the bands.

One thing that probably doesn’t get much comment is the fact that Yur Mum – Anelise and Fabio – are both great musicians. Anelise plays bass like a guitar and cranks out some monster sound, while Fabio plays the whole kit all at once. They’ve both got outstanding presence – Despite singing and playing, Anelise manages to be pretty mobile around the stage, and Fabio has an exuberant style that goes the occasional stick-spin. Above all, though, they play with chemistry and energy, and the intuition that comes with hard touring. The slower gothic tones of ‘Black Rainbow’ stand out in a powerful set that features a piledriving rendition of ‘Sweatshop’ as the penultimate song.

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Yur Mum

Healthy Junkies are another band who tour relentlessly, and it shows – not because they seem jaded, but because they’ve got that tightness that comes from time on the road (their last album, Forever on the Road is appropriately titled). And unphased by the smaller crowd, they play hard and put on the same standard of show as if the place was absolutely rammed. They’re not just pros, they pour every ounce into every song.

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Healthy Junkies

Nina Courson is a whirlwind of flailing limbs and hair, at times channelling Katie Jane Garside, and utterly compelling – to the point that sometimes you forget the songs, and the solidity of the band as a collective. Guitarist Phil Honey-Jones takes lead vocals on a handful of tracks, making for a nice contrast and highlighting the depth of the band’s talent. The rhythm section don’t do anything to draw attention, and do exactly what’s needed – keep it solid, and with drive. They wrap up with the fan-favourite cover of ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’, and that is indeed what they do.

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Healthy Junkies

Any disappointment over the absence of Witch of the East – and I for one was disappointed, as I’d been looking forward, while I suspect other got word and stayed home – was compensated by the quality of the two bands, both headline acts in their own right.

Christopher Nosnibor

This is by no means the first time I’ll have mentioned that sometimes, the best gigs are the ones you have to drag yourself to. The dragging here is no reflection on the bands, so much as the fact that when work and life are sapping your soul and you’re not feeling like doing anything ‘people’ orientated, the prospect of venturing out to be among people on a Tuesday night is not one that fires a burst of enthusiasm. You want to stay home. You want to hibernate. But the combination of beer and live music is so often the best therapy – and this proved to be one of those nights.

I have long lost count of the number of times I’ve seen or otherwise written about both Soma Crew and Percy, and while they both fit the bracket of ‘local’ bands, they’re both bands who bring great joy to see, and no-one dismisses London bands who only play a circuit of half a dozen small venues in London as ‘local’, do they? And you can’t watch ‘local’ bands in London with a decent hand-pulled pint in a proper glass for £4 a pint, either.

All three bands are playing on the floor in front of the stage, and The New Solar Drones have a lot of instruments spilling out, including a maraca, triangle, and timpani. It’s quite a sight to behold on entering, and the additional percussion goes a long way to giving the band a distinctive sound. Mellow country flavoured indie branches out in all kinds of directions. The rolling, thunderous drums lend a real sense of drama to the waves of noodling synths. The guitar workout on a song about Hollywood gets a bit Hotel California, but it’s well executed. The final track marks a shift from laid-back easy-going Americana into some kind of post-rock progressive folk that’s rather darker and lasts about ten minutes, complete with clarinet solo. They’ve got some rough edges to iron out, but the songs are solid and it’s an impressive debut.

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The New Solar Drones

With a new album around the corner, this is Percy’s first gig in seven months. Three quarters of the band are crowded to one side of the stage, while singer/guitarist Colin is on the other. Either it’s because he’s a grumpy sod, or perhaps just because his guitar amp is so bloody loud. ‘Going off on One’ kicks off the set energetically and sets the pace for a career-spanning selection that focuses on the more uptempo aspects of their catalogue. Bassist Andy’s post-lockdown look is J Mascis, but he charges around cranking out low end beef, and it’s the rhythm section that dominates, while Paula’s keyboards bring some melody and definition in contrast to the scratchy guitar sound.

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Percy

“Fray Bentos pie! With gravy!” The slower, synthier ‘Alice’ sounds more like Joy Division than their usual jagged post­punk grind and graft, but while most of the lyrics are indecipherable, the pie and gravy seem to be the focus. They really attack the snarling ‘Will of the People’, and its relevence seems to grow by the day. Colin comes on like Mark E Smith at his most vitriolic… and there, I failed in my attempt to review Percy without recourse The Fall. Seems it just can’t be done. They close with a brand new song, ‘Chunks’, about ‘chunks in gravy!’ Yep, definitely a theme, and if Percy are something of a meat and potatoes band, it’s in the way The Wedding Present are hardy perennials and brimming with northern grit.

A resonant throb gradually leaks from the PA, and from it emerges Soma Crew’s quintessential motorik pumping. Standing near the front, I reflect on the fact I could use a wide angle lens to get all of them in. They have a lot of guitars. The front man from The New Solar Drones is on keys and lap steel and, later guitar, and the lap steel accentuates the band’s overall drone and gives something of a Doorsy vibe.

They’re on serious form tonight, sounding solid and energetic. Shifting up to three guitars, they hit a swinging rock ‘n’ roll blues boogie groove.

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Soma Crew

While I find myself drifting on this tripped-out repetition, I consider the fact that less is more. Chords, that is, not instruments. Four guitars (if you count the bass) playing three chords in an endless cycle is better than two guitars, which in turn is better than one. The songs and structures are simple: the effect is all in the layering up and the reverb. Listening to bands that are overtly about the technical proficiency is often pretty dull. Passion and mood count for so much more. Volume helps, and with a brutal backline and sympathetic sound man, they hit that sweet spot where it hurts just a bit even with earplugs. Simon’s slightly atonal droning vocals are soporific, and everything just melts into an all-engulfing wash of sound. ‘Mirage’ kicks with volume and solid repetitive groove, while ‘Say You Believe’ is straight up early Ride/Chapterhouse, before ‘Propaganda Now’ is a blistering drive through a wall of Jesus and Mary Chain inspired feedback that brings the set to a shimmering, monster climax.

I stumble out, my ears buzzing, elated. Because everything came together to surpass expectations to make for an outstanding night.

Christopher Nosnibor

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the pros and cons of geography, particularly the fact that all the gigs seem to happen in London, and a lot of smaller London-based bands on a perpetual tour of the capital and rarely venturing far beyond. It’s hardly surprising, given so much recent coverage of the costs of going on tour – particularly with the added uncertainty of the ongoing matter of Covid. But then, here in the North, I can travel from York to Leeds in less time than it takes to cross a corner of London, and a pint is about half the price. And in a six-day span when Mclusky, Big | Brave and Melt-Banana all play Leeds or York, I feel pretty spoiled.

And so here we are at The Crescent, York’s answer to The Brudenell, which operates with similar principles of remaining true to its WMC origins with low-priced beer and a focus on decent sound. If you’ve ever wondered what a typical melt-Banana fan might look like, the answer is that there is no such thing. A mad genre-spanning noise band, it seems, appeals to anyone with an open mind and ears that are happy to take a battering, with punks, indie kids, goths, metallers and all sorts from ages twenty to sixty all gathered, and what a wonderfully pleasant, sociable lot they prove to be, and as so often proves to be the case, the more extreme the music, the more friendly the crowd.

Mumbles don’t really benefit from the sound with their primitive (post) punk. It’s played with frenetic energy and packs so many tempo changes they can barely keep up with themselves. It’s an eventful set, where the guitarist/singer’s austerity trousers aren’t the only things worthy of note: technical issues lead to an impromptu clarinet sol, and things get a bit jarring Avant jazz in places. I’m on the fence as to how well it actually works at times, but ultimately, they emerge triumphant. The guys are visibly nervous and some songs seem almost beyond their technical ability, although that’s not remotely a criticism: listen not live recordings of bands in the 70s and 80s, and this is what bands sounded like live. With more or less every band emerging super-tight and polished, it sometimes seems as if something has been lost, and Mumbles won themselves a fair few fans on this outing.

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Mumbles

It’s a welcome return to York for Cowtown and their breezy, caffeine-fuelled bouncy indie. The epic reverb on Jonathan Nash’s vocals adds a layer of depth to their up-front and punchy sound, and he too showcases some more dubious trouserage with plus fours and long socks. But, as always, they’re fun to watch, and the energy of their performance is infectious, getting the crowd warmed up nicely for the main event.

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Cowtown

And what an event it is.

Blam! Grraww! Whap! Pow! Yelp! I’ve absolutely no idea what the fuck is going on, and I’m not even convinced a detailed knowledge of their twenty years of output spanning eight albums would make any real difference. Fast and furious doesn’t come close: everything is a complete blur. The stage is piled high with amps and speaker cabs, so much so that despite it being a large stage, the pair have barely room to move. So much backline! So much volume! This is crazy! No bass, just squalling guitar racket propelled by programmed drums – that actually sound live – at 150mph.

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Melt-Banana

Only Japan could produce a band like Melt-Banana, who infuse high-octane whiplash-inducing grind with a manic pop edge, dirty great sawing guitars and sequencers controlled by some strange handheld device that looks like an 80s disco. For all the raging noise, the technical precision is astounding. Somewhere toward the end of the set, Yasuko Onuki announces ‘nine short songs’, and they’re played back-to-back are blistering grindcore abrasion and over in about three minutes. The mighty moshpit, which has been pretty intense throughout the set, simply explodes.

The atmosphere as the band leave the stage is electric. We’re all dazed, stunned, as if our brains have been used as punching balls for rapid punching exercises. It’s beyond rare for a set to blow away an entire packed venue – but then Melt-Banana aren’t rare, they’re truly unique. What an insane rush.

Christopher Nosnibor

Having been rescheduled after last November’s booking was cancelled, The Golden Age of TV are back in York on the eve of the release of a new EP.

It’s not the most promising start to arrive to find the doors locked, and Sea Legs are still soundchecking when they open the doors 25 minutes late. Something isn’t right with the mic in the kick drum, and it’s creating huge crackling distortion. But a change of mic, a change of leads, and things are back on track, albeit with a slightly later start.

It’s pretty quiet to begin, too, so the time between soundcheck and the start affords a bit of time just to sup a pint of Timothy Taylor’s dark mild and see the venue properly. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that there’s still a fireplace and mantelpiece at the back of the stage behind the drum kit. It’s even more of an anomaly than the huge great radiator at the side of the room. These are reminders that The Vaults may be a venue, but still a pub at heart, and I’m drinking my hand-pulled pint from a real glass. There’s something comforting and gratifying about this.

Sea Legs’ melodic indie/alt rock stylings are easy on the ear, and occasionally fade into waves of ambience in between. There are some nice bass grooves too, not to mention some detailed and textured lead guitar work. They’re tight and tuneful: to my ears they’re nice enough but a shade ordinary, although that means they’re also exactly the kind of band that goes massive with the right breaks.

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Sea Legs

Pavillion’s front man’s beige chinos and shiny paisley shirt are a bit of a distraction from the music, although that’s probably just me as I realise he’s dressed how everyone dressed when I was their age, down to the early 90s curtains. I also realise the place is suddenly a lot busier, and it’s a shame their fans / mates thin out again shortly after their set, not least of all because they seriously missed out. If I was being harsh, I’d say their song ‘Terrifically Ordinary’ could be their signature, but they show real songwriting panache, with hints of Squeeze, and they play well, even if the visual aspect of their performance isn’t particularly evolved yet. Their lyrical vignettes are poetic and evocative, and well-constructed.

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Pavillion

All of this is just preamble, both in terms of the bands and the commentary. I’m here for The Golden Age of TV quite simply because the last time I saw them back in September, they absolutely blew me away with their sheer quality. Although they’ve been around a while, something seemed to have fired them up several notches during lockdown.

Tonight proves that their Long Division performance was not just a flicker post-pandemic exuberance, and that they really are a band who’ve achieved a new level of form. In a bold move, they open with the upcoming EP’s title track and lead single ‘Bite My Skin’ that merges motorik groove with choppy post punk and solid riffing.

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The Golden Age of TV

The energy they radiate is magical: they’re overtly nerdy in image, and they embrace it to the max. Rock god guitar poses (Ryan with glasses sliding off face, the guy plays every chord like it’s an absolute crushing stadium-blasting monster, Sam hard thrashing like he’s possessed) epic gurning and unashamed mum dancing, they are just so exuberant and joy to watch, and I keep finding myself grinning like a loon. Bea is a remarkably expressive vocalist with great presence. In all, they’ve got great tunes, tight and tidy with neat structures and finishes, and a great vibe. When a band are this into what they’re doing, it’s hard not to get caught up in it. The golden age of TV may have long passed, but their own golden age is now. Go see them: because recorded they’re ace, but it’s live where they really thrive.

Christopher Nosnibor

Snakerattlers are BACK! Almost two years to the day since their last show, the ass—kicking psychobilly duo are back on the circuit, and landing in style to launch a new album, The Left Hand Path at the same time.

Snakerattlers have always embraced their DIY position as something that enables them to do things their own way, and this event is exemplary: whereas album launches are often massive blow-outs with loads of bands and balloons and gimmicks, which mean you’re knackered by the time the headliners take the stage, they’ve gone for something that’s truly special and personal, in the form of an afternoon show with no supports, playing the album live in its entirety for the first ad only time, with some talk about the inspiration for each song before its played. It’s also noteworthy that said album is only being released on CD and vinyl: no downloads or streaming. A proper album, old-school.

The times on the door list Doors as 2:30 and Snakerattlers 3-4pm, and it’s getting busy when I arrive at 2:40, and while I am not tall, I’m amazed by the fact that practically everyone in the place is a fucking giant, so I grab a pint and get down the front, quick. Dank ambient atmospherics rumble over the PA.I figure there’s probably not much point trying to photograph the scribbled set list since the pitch of the launch event is to play the new album through as a one-off. So I suppose this is something of an in-the-moment first-hearing album review as well as a live review.

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They’re punctual, and Dan’s grin is something to behold. He may be shitting his pants nervous, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone look happier to be onstage before. As a band who usually play around a hundred shows a year, a two-year enforced break probably felt like having their limbs amputated.

They’re straight in with a swampy reverby tune with no lyrics beyond ‘wooh’ and ‘huh!’ by way of an intro, and it feels like they’ve picked up precisely where they’ve left off, although it very soon becomes apparent that there’s been a significant shift in the world of Snakerattlers as they start working through the album. That’s what happens when there’s a global pandemic and successive lockdowns, and Dan is a lyricist who very much writes about the moment, meaning there’s a lot of contemplation and a darker atmosphere across the album as a whole. And while Dan is the voice and the mouth of the band, Naomi’s contribution should never be underestimated. Quiet, serious-looking, she’s the perfect counterpoint in terms of character, while her drumming has a natural feel to it, and a nice, easy swing, even at pace.

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‘One Hand’ is a song not about wanking, but about friendships (or lack of) and in some ways, independence, echoing the sentiments of The Fall’s ‘Frenz’. It starts gentle and sensitive, then goes blamm! ‘No Friend of Mine’ continues the theme of friendship, “All relationships are empty and temporary,” Dan comments in the song’s preamble, nabbing a Mansun lyric in the process, before launching into a rambunctious country-punk knees up. It’s about a minute long.

The songs feel evolved, and show a keen attention to changes in tempo and pacing, and the album sequencing also feels considered – which corresponds with the formats of choice, with the jangly ‘Rattle in my Bones’ ahead of the darker, gothy ‘I Remain’, with hints of The Gun Club. It’s slower, and fully anthemic, and I find myself prickling with goosepimples. ‘In the Ground’ is a contemplation on death penned during the pandemic, and it’s mid-tempo, minor key punk, and utterly magnificent to boot.

Taking the “darkness dial to 10” as he puts it, ‘All Hope is Lost’ emerged from a dark place during lockdown. It’s tense, and while it’s not quite Joy Division, it’s pretty damn bleak – but still manages a hook. ‘Small’ is more old school rock ‘n’ roll, while ‘It Comes’ (if that’s what it’s actually called) is a churner about insomnia, while ‘Spooks’, which emerged last year is more standard Snakerattlers uptempo Fall-esqu rockabilly – or rattle rock, as they prefer to call it.

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There’s another switch with the twangin’ instrumental boogie ‘Wolf Dance’ that paves the way for the final double salvo of kick-ass tunes, culminating with the fast, angular ‘We are Your Hell,’ inspired by a dickish punter facing off to the band at their last gig in Leeds on 5th March 2020. It’s a storming finale to the album, and to the set. It’s been exactly forty-five minutes, and it’s been a blast from beginning to end.

And with that, they’re off to man the merch stall. Rock ‘n’ roll! Yes, Snakerattlers are most definitely BACK!

Christopher Nosnibor

Three years on from the original Lips Can Kill Tour, which took place in December 2019, these four likeminded bands reconvene to showcase their contrasting but complimentary styles around the UK, landing in York on the second night after kick-starting things in Birmingham. And, while ostensibly London-based acts, this is very much an international affair, and it’s this range of flavours and elements of cultural context that make this such an exciting proposition.

On the one hand, I feel that making a deal of the fact any band is female-fronted is unhelpful in the scheme of things, as if being female-fronted is something particularly novel or to be applauded in itself, or, worse still, a kind of virtue signal or positive discrimination. It’s more a hindrance to equality and detracts from what the band actually does. Female-fronted is not a genre. I say this because context matters, and the fact that all four acts on this tour are female-fronted is precisely the point: it’s a package deal of strong female frontspersons working in solidarity: stronger together. But stepping back from that, the fact of the matter is that it’s a package deal with four fiery guitar-led bands that you can’t really go wrong for the seven quid or so entry.

With a revolving running order, the stage times on the door simply list bands 1-4, and the first is on early, just fifteen minutes after doors. It’s Tokyo Taboo up first after some last-minute pole prep. Their act and image has come on a fair way since I last saw them way back in 2018, and their set now features unreleased material and singles released since 6th Street Psychosis. For the most part it’s chunky, spunky, punk rock with a pop edge. ‘Pussy Power’, dedicated to the women of the bands on tour is strong and empowering. The second half of ‘Self Sabotage’ is sung from back by the bar after Dolly totters through the crowd on heels that are practically stilts. As it began, so it ends, and they’re back to low-slung stoner riffage for closer ‘No Pleasure Only Pain’.

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Tokyo Taboo

Healthy Junkies are up next for what seems to be a depressingly middle-aged male-dominated crowd, and they’re on form on their second time playing in York this year. They sound denser, louder, more driven and energised and get people moving from the start. They’ve got the quiet/loud dynamics and beefy grunge/punk riffs nailed and kick the songs out with swagger and confidence, but without coming across as cocky. They’re proficient and efficient, lean and strong. It’s the first tour for their new bassist. He’s young and energetic and delivers some solid Rickenbacker action. Chat is kept to a minimum as they pack in the tunes and play them hard. ‘Tricky Situation is pure spirit of 77 with guitarist Phil Jones taking over lead vocals. They’re joined by Frog from PollyPikPocketz for closer ‘Mayday’. It’s got novelty value, but the green haired old punk’s Lydon ripping is a shade anticlimactic in its predictability. Still, they look like they’re having fun and the crowd love it, so maybe it’s just me being cynical and jaundiced.

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Healthy Junkies

The night steps up a notch or three with the arrival of Yur Mum onstage. They immediately up both the volume and intensity. Something about cutting down to a duo seems to have given the band – who already kicked arse as a trio – a fresh impetus and incentive to kick arse twice as hard. If it’s a case of overcompensating, then fine: it works. Anelis’ rib-shaking bass packs a massive, phat, buzzing, booming punch, and it’s matched every note by Fabio’s stick-flipping hard hitting drumming. The jarring, jolting frenzy of ‘Tropical Fuzz’ is absolutely killer, and brings all the cowbell, too. Then they’re straight into the jungle… and there’s more amazing bass, with fast fretwork but it’s not wanky for a second. They really turn up the heat with ‘Sweatshop’ and, for my money, are the band of the night.

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Yur Mum

PollyPikPoketz present an interesting dynamic – and pack a hell of a lot of energy. The guitar and bass are – specifically those wielding them – are old punk/metal with their Lemmy / Rotten stylings respectively, and are probably older than singer Myura’s parents. It makes for an odd dynamic, visually at least. Sonically, though, it works a treat, combining experience with sass and energy. They’ve got some killer riffs, too, and hit full-throttle gut churn at times, simultaneously calling to mind early Therapy? and The Adverts.

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PollyPikPoketz

In all, it stacks up for a quality night, and where many package tours feature bands who sound alike – which can get tedious pretty quickly, because no-one needs four shouty punk bands or instrumental post-rock acts back to back – Lips Can Kill 2 offers stylistic range sonically and visually, not to mention top-notch entertainment all night.