Posts Tagged ‘York’

Christopher Nosnibor

A few weeks ago, before the start of a spoken word night, another performer approached me and opened with the line ‘these people hate you.’ She went on to explain the specifics of why they hate me, citing a piece that was – but wasn’t – about suicide that I performed in August, and how the ferocity of my sets in general were not appreciated at this particular night. I was taken aback, shaken, and rather wounded. My confidence was rattled. It took me some time and reflection to realise that not only did I not care, but was actually pleased – elated, even – that people could react so strongly to my work. After all, it’s not hate speech or anything nearly so insidious, and ultimately, if you’re pleasing all of the people all of the time, you’re not making art, but entertainment.

The reason this is relevant is because Arrows of Love make art. They refer to themselves as art-rock, but there’s nothing pretentious about them or their music. In person, they’re some of the friendliest, most approachable and generous people you could wish to meet. On stage, they’re as challenging a band as you’re likely to see – or half-see: tonight, they play in near-darkness to a depressingly small crowd, moving shadows cranking out a fearsome wall of angular noise that straddles grunge and goth-tinged post-punk. And they don’t care: if anything, they revel in the perversity and play as hard as ever.

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Arrows of Love

With more time than usual on account of the original co-headliners cancelling, they dig deep to deliver an attacking extended set which features the majority of the new album, Product. As well it should: while its predecessor, Everything’s Fucked was a snarling, sprawling squall of an album, Product is more focused, denser, more intense, and even more pissed off. The first song of the set is also the album’s opener and single cut ‘Signal,’ a sinewy slice of tension that explodes in every direction.

‘Desire’ is deep, dark, and brooding, and The Knife’ from the debut is deadlier than ever, with added guitar noise and played with a blistering ferocity at its searing climax. The grinding dirge that is ‘Restless Feeling’ invites comparisons to Swans circa 1983/84, and the jarring, grating sonic backdrop is rendered literal as Nuha swaps her bass for a plank of wood and coping saw, which she proceeds to gnaw away at while drums and bass shudder along at a glacial pace. It’s mighty, but hardly moshable.

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Arrows of Love

Nimah would later tell me that he was tired and – on account of having to drive after the show – completely sober, but he still fires into it with unbridled fury, spitting the lyrics like they’re his last words as he’s being dragged off to his execution, and the band crackle with dark energy.

It’s this unstinting, uncompromising, total bloody-mindedness that makes Arrows of Love the band that they are, and as they churn out a juddering, sneering rendition of ‘Predictable’. The only thing predictable about the band is the intensity of the performance (as if to illustrate the point, guitarist Alex, who stepped in when Lyndsey left, is now Alice, who’s perhaps less flamboyant than her predecessors, but still cranks out a mean overdriven six-sting racket), and this highlights the contrast between them and the evening’s support act, Naked Six. The York duo kick out a fiery and energetic set of heavy, balls-out, stomping blues rock with big nods to Led Zep, and having seen them a handful of times, they’re incredibly solid and consistently entertaining. But it’s not art.

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Naked Six

Art is dangerous, risky, uncomfortable. With the roaring attack of ‘Toad’ and the tempestuous closer ‘Beast’, Arrows border on the unlistenable, presented in a style that borders on unwatchable, with no concessions to commerciality. There is something about the lack of illumination which renders them even more inaccessible, more untouchable tonight. If Arrows of Love’s latest album really is the ‘soundtrack to the impending societal collapse’, then bring it the fuck on if it means more shows like this.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Last time I saw Ming City Rockers, supporting Arrows of Love in Leeds, I wasn’t hugely impressed, and thought that if they put as much effort into the songs as into looking like rock clichés, they might get somewhere. I’m here, in fact, for grungy Australian duo Mannequin Death squad, whose debut EP was one of last year’s highlights. Anyone who caught them on the supporting tour over here, thanks to their Hull-based label, would have witnessed a treat.

Back in the UK once more, they’re gracing York with their presence on the night before dropping their first new material since the Eat, Hate, Regurgitate EP in the form of the track ‘Blue’.

Warming things up are local lads Naked Six. At one time a three-piece, they’re now reduced to a two-piece. But rather than diminishing their power, the guitar / drum combo have focused and concentrated their energy, and with the guitar signal split across two amps, there’s a real depth and solidity to their sound. And it helps that the amps are cranked up loud. It’s the best way to listen to their swaggering, ballsy, hard-edged blues rock. Seb Byford not only has a classic blues rock voice that also works well when they move into grungier territory later in the set, but he’s got a stomp that’s half Angus Young, half frenzied madman as she grinds the riffs into the stage with his heel. It’s a cracking performance.

Naked Six

Naked Six

Mannequin Death Squad certainly don’t disappoint, and it’s telling that the instrument-swapping pair have evolved a set with enough new material to be able to drop killer tracks like ‘KYMS’ from their debut EP without the set being remotely lacking.

The eight-song set, which kicks off with ‘Sick’ from the aforementioned EP boasts almost 50% new and unreleased material. For a band who are yet to really break the market, it’s a bold move, but with a debut album in the offing and so many ace tunes, it means they’re able to arrange the set based not on simply what they’ve got, but to sequence it from a selection that gives the set shape and a dynamic beyond the individual tracks. It’s clear they’ve spent time out and about, on the road, refining their sound, and they benefit from the venue’s appropriate volume to make for an attacking sound.

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Mannequin Death Squad

‘Nightmare’ marks a change of pace and style, bringing a darker hue and a bass-led dirginess to break up the succession of driving grunge tunes with killer hooks which define the band’s sound.

Swapping instruments at the set’s mid-point and again near the end (much to the appreciation of those who thought they were about to finish), they keep themselves and the crowd on their toes, and they work bloody hard to power through a full-throttle set often coming on like Live Through This era Hole, with the added punch of a spiky post-punk edge. They’re fucking awesome.

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Mannequin Death Squad

With a surly-looking female guitarist, a trashy aesthetic, and a slew of uptempo punk tunes, what’s not to like about Ming City Rockers? Regrettably, and despite the consensus of the aged punks going nuts down the front, they still suck. The lack of imagination is the issue. It’s bog-standard spirit of ‘77 4/4 punk, and like many of the bands of the era, at its heart it’s just pub rock played fast with the amps cranked up. The songs are churned out with an abundance of posturing and posing but without any real substance, or tunes, and the sameness gets tedious very quickly.

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Ming City Rockers

They introduce one song as being about playing a gig in Lowestoft where a man chased the singer and ‘tried to pin me down and fuck me, I mean proper fuck me!’ but the lyrics are articulated as something along the lines of ‘wahwahwahwahyaggch’. It’s crass, lowest-common denominator stuff, and much of what happens on stage feels extremely contrived: the walking off stage into the crowd, knocking over cymbals on the way by way of a finale is pretty much emblematic.

Filing out, a few punters could be overheard commenting that Mannequin Death Squad were the best band of the night, and those punters would be right.

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those lineups that has cult appeal written all over it. It’s also wall-to-wall quality. So while The Crescent may not be rammed – it was always going to be challenge to fill a 350-capacity venue in York on a Tuesday night in August with a lineup specialising in experimental and Kratuy workouts – those present are enthusiastic and know they’re in for a treat.

As I absorb Neuschlaufen’s immersive set, I’m increasingly aware of how much they sound – and even look like – so many of the improv-led experimental rock acts from mainland Europe I hear, courtesy of one Berlin-based PR in particular. These bands have substantial but ultimately underground and disparate cult followings, and release their albums on microlabels in batches of numbered editions of 300 or so, and perform in cool but nice venues around Germany and The Netherlands. Neuschlaufen are as good as any of them, and watching the trio manipulate sound – sometimes intuitively, sleekly, and sometimes by using electrical tape to pin keys on a synth down to sustain a note for ten minutes uninterrupted – is a real treat. An extended two-chord workout around the set’s mid-point – and the whole thing is magnificently and intuitively structured – is pinned together with piercing synth and clanging metallic guitar forging serpentine shapes Ash Sagar weaving a strolling six-string bassline. At times they mine a seam that brings together Bauhaus, PiL and The Fall, with shuddering bass grooves underpinning clanging, repetitive guitar-lines which are so angular as to cause flesh wounds.

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Neuschlaufen

It seems that every time I review Soma Crew, I comment on how they’re better with every outing. It’s not just my ears, or forgetfulness: it’s a fact. It’s been a long and slow ascent, but everything about them is totally cohesive, and tonight they spin their hypnotic brand of pulsating psychedelic rock in the tightest, most mesmerising style I’ve yet witnessed. The sound is rich, dense textured, and they’re brighter, clearer, groovier and trippier than ever.

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Soma Crew

Dave Keegan, standing in on bass, does a fantastic job: he holds the rhythm down perfectly with a heavy tone, pinned to Nick Barker’s insistent drumming, and the occasional nifty run for variety. The drumming is a defining feature, and I’m not the only one to note that Nick has, seemingly, one T-shirt and one rhythm. It’s this consistency and his complete lack of drumming ego which places him as one of my all-time drumming heroes.

On ‘Danger Zone’, they amalgamate Joy Division, The Back Angels, and The Doors to forge a unique sonic compound that encapsulates the brilliance of Soma Crew, and closer ‘Celluloid’ builds to a full-throttle sonic attack.

I can barely read a word of the notes I took during Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band’s set, and there aren’t many. I was too busy standing, absorbed, by the trio’s seamless and utterly compelling performance. With elements of psych and prog and 70s rock and out and out rhythm-driven jamming, and songs like ‘The First Ren Minutes of “Cocksucker Blues”’ to groove out on, there’s a lot to get lost in.

They have a simple setup: drums, bass, guitar, a single amp apiece. Nothing fancy. And yes, there are epic guitar solos comparable to Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr (one track even bears more than a passing resemblance to ‘Like a Hurricane’ in its chord sequence, and the emotion Forsyth wrings from those six strings is almost tear-jerking in places). But – and here’s the important point of note – nothing is overdone. However exemplary the musicianship – these guys can’t just play, thy can fucking play – at no point during the set do things ever descend into self-indulgence. This is a major, and extremely rare, feat. But not a bar passes without an ear to structure, and a remembrance of the importance of the audience’s entertainment.

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Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band

At no point to these guys go too far out on a limb, lose the crowd with tangents or indulgence. They’re well-rehearsed and tight as hell, but equally, they’re not so slick as to feel like they’re going through the motions, and this is when wigging out is at its best. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band define intuition, and play with an understated showmanship that’s something special.

Christopher Nosnibor

I know very little about this release, at least in terms of specifics. I do know that it’s the work of the prodigious John Tuffen, who also performs as part of Neuschlaufen and Wharf Street Galaxy Band amongst others. I know its physical edition is in a hand-numbered run of 50 CD-R, housed in a paper foldover sleeve in a PVC wallet, with an appropriately blank image by way of cover art. There’s a bleak, quasi-modernist feel to the night-shot photograph of a structure constructed as some kind of shelter. But a shelter without people and a car-park without car is simply dead space. One Year, Two Days is a night-time work. Recorded at night (we’ll return to that shortly), it’s the soundtrack to empty spaces and time without people. And abstract as the sound sequence are on One Year; Two Days, it’s reasonable to summarise the project as a work about time and space and a certain absence.

I do know that John likes his kit, and to fiddle with it, and that a lot of his works are ‘project’ based, centred around either a piece of equipment (e.g. 808 // Whammy (2016) and Field Memory Recorder (2017) recorded exclusively with a novation circuit) or specific times / locations. I also know that John has been working under the Namke Communications moniker for some seventeen years now, and has built quite a body of experimental work in this guise.

The track titles are simply dates and times, and show that the four pieces were recorded over two days in 2016 – as the EP’s title suggests. In some ways, it marks a continuation of the 365/2015 project, which saw Tuffen record – and release – a track a day for the entirety of 2015.

This project and its predecessor provide a considerable insight into Tuffen’s creative modus operandi, which could equally be described as a work ethic. It’s one I can personally relate to, as I strive to produce and publish at least one review a day. This does, of course, raise the inevitable question about quality control, but there are two very different positions on creativity: the first suggests creativity is something which cannot be controlled, is spontaneous. It says you have to wait or the moment, the idea, the impulse. To wait and to go with the flow. The second says that creativity is like a muscle: the more you do, the more you’re able. In time, quantity begets quality as a committed, systematic approach to making art.

‘2016-08-08-2202’ sets the tone, a distorting oscillation provides the backdrop to creeping notes which gradually rise majestically before bleeding into ‘2016-08-08-2318’. It may be growing later, but the mood grows marginally lighter. The sequencing of the tracks is a major factor in the listening experience here, as there is an overall arc from beginning to end. The mid-section, as represented by ‘2016-08-10-1909’ transitions into hushed ambience, before fragmenting into darker territory with fractured distortion and dislocation taking hold. Eventually, it spins into hovering metallic drones, the frequencies touching on the teeth-jangling.

The final track, ‘2016-08-08-2256’ forges a cloud of amorphous sonic drift, a sonic cloud without tangible form. It’s immersive, but at the same time entirely engaging, as the oscillations and quavering notes which fade in and out of the rumbling thunder slowly dissipate in a drifting mist.

While locked in time and space in terms of their creation, in terms of reception, the four tracks on One Year; Two Days transport the listener beyond both time and space. And herein lies the power of this release, in that it both freezes time, and stretches it out over a frame which has no fixed limits.

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Namke Communications – One Year Two Days

Christopher Nosnibor

The soundcheck in progress while I’m ordering my first pint suggests we’re in for a loud night. Well, the Facebook event page did give fair warning. It’s a good job I’ve brought earplugs: the guy behind the bar points out that he’s already wearing his.

It’s 6:40pm on a Sunday evening in August. Outside, it’s still warm and the sun is out. Inside, it’s seriously dark, even with the curtains open and daylight filtering in. The THING – whose ‘Nightmares for Children’ streamed exclusively on Aural Aggravation back in April, begin their set with a dolorous bell chime and ominous, droning synths. The fear notes give way to a massage deluge of gut-grinding sludge: the guitar sounds like a bass, the bass sounds the bowels of Beelzebub after a phal. As they thunder through a continuous half-hour set, I’m reminded of Sleep, but the samples and synths which emerge through the murk gives an industrial edge to the doomy dronescape which reaches its climax by building through a single chord and floor to being battered at increasing speed before breaking into a tsunami of sludge.

The THING

The THING

Rotting Monarchs win band name of the night, no question. But starting fifteen minutes late in a tightly-packed schedule is not so cool, and they seem a bit disorganised and lacking in finesse. Still, their shouty, grindy punky racket brought together bits of NOFX with hints of Bomb Disneyland, which is no bad thing.

The place is suddenly a lot busier: Shrieking Violet have brought their mates. And they’re young. Many of them have short skirts and shiny new DMs. I’m here in my cracked £20 steel-toed Chelsea boots and beer-stained jacket. I’m not expecting much. Yes, they’re pure 80s, as if the singer’s hair and shirt didn’t give it away. The first track has hints of early Ultravox. But equally as the set progresses, I’m reminded of This Et Al minus the falsetto. They benefit from some hooky tunes propelled by some phenomenal, powerhouse percussion. ‘Avalanche’ is built around a steely, cyclical riff worthy of Killing Joke, and overall, it’s a strong set.

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Shrieking Violet

They may be playing as a three-piece sans bassist Dani, but SEEP AWAY still manage to bring eye-popping intensity and ear-shredding volume to proceedings. The eight-string guitar ensures the sound’s got density, and when paired with Dom Smith’s fierce drumming – his second set of the night having already pounded through The THING’s set – there’s plenty of sonic backdrop for Jay to do his manic thing. He’s a hell of a showman: that he’s wild and unpredictable and relentlessly in the crowd’s faces means you can’t take your eye off him for a second.

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SEEP AWAY

My opinions on novelty bands are no secret, and in the main, I think they suck. Petrol Hoers are a novelty bad so perverse, so fucked-up and plain wrong, that they’re an exception. Two blokes – two fat blokes – one wearing dungarees with no shirt, but a comedy horse’s head, the other wearing red Y-fronts, a fine mesh vest and a Mexican wrestling mask, stomp around hollering over backing tracks of blistering, uptempo industrial-strength bangin’ techno. In paper, it sounds both weird and shit in equal measure, but the audacity of these guys is as sheer as the pants guy’s top. The half dozen people who last the duration of their set absolutely fucking love it.

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Petrol Hoers

Little Death Machine take the stage ten minutes after their set was supposed to finish. Are they worth the wait? Absolutely. The London trio play in near-darkness, adding to the taut atmosphere which emanates from their technically precise and detailed compositions. On account of being scribbled in the dark (and not on account of the pints consumed over the course of the evening), my notes are a shade difficult to decipher, but in the moment I was taken by their rock / post-rock / hop-hop / soul rock hybrid. I also note by way of reference points Placebo, Oceansize, Nine Inch Nails, TesseracT, and some stuff I can’t make out from the scrawl.

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Little Death Machine

Did I really write ‘soul rock’? Yes, it appears so, and if that reads like an insult or criticism, it’s not: the moods that are deeply entwined within the songs, which are complex and progressive in their structures, are played with a sincerity and soulfulness that you feel. And that’s something no amount of technical ability or compositional dexterity can fake. It’s emotive, textured and resonant. And the perfect finish to an intense and varied night of live music.

Christopher Nosnibor

It says a lot about a gig’s lineup when the band at the bottom of the bill are of a clear headline standard. It’s clear, then, that Dan and Naomi Gott, the pair behind the Behind the White Door promoter’s outfit, who also happen to be Snakerattlers, are determined to give their album a decent launch tonight.

Local lads Black Lagoons, sporting a selectin of shirts worse than my own, start out with some fuzzy bass and heavily tremolod guitars, leading into a raging slab of punk-tinged desert psych. The bulk of the set’s dominated by gnarled-up blues boogies thrashed out at a hundred mile an hour. It’s a hell of a ride, and I’m reminded a little of early Gallon Drunk: it’s not just the sharp haircuts, but the furious, frenzied take on rock ‘n’ roll which yields an intense, immersive wall of sound.

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Black Lagoons

London’s Sly Persuaders, on the face of it, offer a more straight-ahead brand of punk rock, but as the set progresses it’s clear there’s a lot more going on. They’ve got some swagger behind a stack of sinewy guitar lines and rugged, serrated bass tones, carrying hints of The Screaming Blue Messiahs in places, as well as the spiky grit of various Touch & Go bands from the early 90s in others. It’s invigorating, and it’s also getting bloody hot in the low-ceilinged pub venue.

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Sly Persuaders

The problem with ‘fun’ bands is that everyone has a different idea of fun. Naturally, some modes of fun are more populist than others, and it perhaps goes without saying that punk in itself isn’t exactly the mainstream. Pete Bentham and the Dinnerladies churn out pub rock punk with lyrics which leap from wry sociopolitical critiquing to observations on ‘modern’ art (although I’d probably bracket avant-garde provocateur Marcel Duchamp as a proto-postmodernist myself).

Pete himself doesn’t look a day under 50, and resembles a young Mark E Smith. He’s backed by a band considerably younger, and augmented with the performance element of ‘the dinnerettes’ a couple of buxom women with red gingham overdresses with fried egg patches sewn onto their boons, who make choreographed gesticulations to illustrate the lyrics. Or, sometimes, they just jog on the spot as during the ska knees-up about Uri Geller. They end up in a writhing heap in front of the stage at the end of the end of the set and everyone applauds because it’s a right laugh. The sax does give them a bit of a Psychedelic Furs vibe, though, which is a plus.

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Pete Bentham and the Dinnerladies

Snakerattlers haven’t been around long, but since losing their drummer and disbanding The Franceens, Dan and Naomi have wasted no time in pulling together a set, a busy gig diary and now an album. To launch it, they play a set comprising everything they’ve got. And they play it hard.

As a two-piece, theirs is a minimal set-up – Naomi has a simple, three-piece drum kit consisting of tom, snare and cymbal, and Dan fill out his guitar sound with a fuckload of reverb, plays through two amps (guitar and bass) and cranks it up LOUD. Their sound is s wild rockabilly blues country rock ‘n’ roll surf hybrid, with many of the lyrics consisting of hollers and whoops. Dan works up a sweat, while Naomi has a more nonchalant, easy style, swinging her arms and hips in a way that looks effortless, but she hits hard and keeps it tight.

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Snakerattlers

In many respects, the simplicity is the key to what makes Snakerattlers a great band: there’s no clutter, either about the sound or the performance. There’s not a whole heap of banter and the songs are cut down to the bare essentials, meaning they get their heads down to the business of kicking out high-octane garage rock. They do low-down boogie; they do guitar lines with strut and swagger; they do hooks. They do it all with force, and it’s appreciatively received, ensuring Rattlerock is well and truly launched.

Christopher Nosnibor

“I’ve fucked my wrist – chipped a bone in rehearsal.” I’m talking to Dom Smith, drummer with Seep Away. His band are due on in ten minutes. Should he even be playing? He’s not exactly a gentle percussionist. But as he and the rest of the band take to the stage to Hole’s ‘Doll Parts’, it’s clear he’s adrenalized and up for going all out. Screamer Jay is kitted out in full mini-skirted drag and looking killer. Seep Away get harder, heavier, denser and louder with each outing, and tonight, Jay is even more manic and confrontational than ever, writhing on his knees among the front rows.

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Seep Away

Brooders might have a tough act to follow, but if it bothers them, they’re not showing it. They may be young – they certainly look it – but this power trio are solid as they come. They knock out some driving grunge tunes, which are dark, dense, and weighty, but also so much more. They pack in some neat and hooky melodies alongside the chunky, bass-driven noise: in many respects, they’re the quintessence of 90s alt-rock, and they know how to nail down a hefty Nirvana-inspired riff.

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Brooders

Hands Off Gretel have drawn a decent crowd, particularly for a Thursday night that’s blessed with beer garden weather. In fact, it’s a battle to get a decent spot down the front on account of the clamour of folks with their phones out, filming. It’s not hard to see – or hear – why: they’re a killer live band, who combine a raw, ragged energy with a musical tightness. And there’s simply no sidestepping the appeal of Lauren Tate.

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Hands Off Gretel

I’ve been criticised on occasion for commenting on the physical attributes of women in bands, because despite the fact I’m equally likely to comment on the physical aspects of a man in a band, it’s not really the done thing. But Lauren Tate doesn’t so much invite the eyes to focus on her, but demands it. If the powder-blue hot pants and matching top, accompanied by knee-high socks, is sort of cutesy-sexy, the heavy eye makeup, smeared lipstick and truly ferocious full-throated vocal is terrifying. It’s the perfect paradox of appeal and repel, the cheerleader slut who’ll murder you and play with the blood. This, of course, makes her the embodiment of the grunge style; the oppositional elements of quiet / loud, melody and discord, introspection and screaming rage. And the songs encapsulate all of this perfectly. Yes: let’s not forget the songs, or the rest of the band. Both are equally essential to the band’s appeal.

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Hands Off Gretel

Tonight, airing a set built around debut album Burn the Beauty Queen, the band positively tear into the guts of those songs, channelling every ounce of fury into those angst-filled aural assault. Dropping ‘Be Mine’ as the second track of the set, it’s a shuddering, full-on bass-led attack. ‘Bad Egg’ is served with a huge dose of venomous self-loathing, and ‘One-Eyed Girl’ is pure Live Through This era Hole – although unlike their forebears, Hands Off Gretel don’t sound ropey, and you can be pretty confident they’ll make it all the way through the set. And by the end of the set, everyone’s a sweaty mess, uplifted by the joy of catharsis.