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Live Reviews (Feb '20): Black Country, New Road / Just Joans

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Black Country, New Road

Picture House Social, 18 January

Selling out a venue like Picture House Social is an achievement for any up-and-coming band. When you consider Black Country, New Road's minimal media presence, with only two recordings available on streaming services, it makes the feat even more impressive.

Taking the stage to Arcade Fire's 'Wake Up', the seven-piece London band arrive with a sense of the unknown. Playing their first single, 'Athen's, France', is as good an introduction as any to this genre-defying group. Simple guitar riffs and gradual beats are overseen by the kind of saxophone solo that features heavily in their songs. The vocals of singer Isaac Wood have a certain Ian Curtis or Mark E Smith feel, as the intensity and pace of the song increases.

Their other single, 'Sunglasses', is a rollercoaster from start to finish. Suspense builds second by second as Wood recites the spoken word lyrics, leaving the audience in awe.

The rest of the setlist is hard to decipher, with musical signatures that are constantly twisting and turning, making it difficult to understand where one song finishes and another begins. The final track, 'Wet Sheets', is a sexual fantasy which embodies the creativity of Black Country, New Road perfectly. Beginning with a steady violin and guitar combination, the song's complexity progressively increases, developing into an eerie and impassioned 15-minute piece which provides an ideal end to the evening.

Black Country, New Road conduct themselves in a very unassuming manner, but I'm sure they're aware that something exceptional is happening within their multi-talented band. Their experimental nature gives them the edge over other post-punk bands and their next release could place them in a class above the rest.

Daniel Atherton

Just Joans

Shakespeares, 17 January

On a cold, wintry Friday night there's nowhere better to be than in the upstairs room at a sold-out Shakespeares gig.

And what a delight it is for the evening to kick off with The Sweet Nothings. I thought they were in the 'local much-missed box', along with Navvy and Nixon, but they were just on a four-and-a-half-year hiatus. Starting with 'If You Ever Need A Shoulder', they remind you how good they are at writing and performing simple pop songs (with a liberal sprinkling of sparkles and socialism).

All Girls Arson Club were the best Sheffield band of 2019, but tonight they admit that they're a bit rusty, and their occasional false starts and missed beats only add to their general insouciance and 'fuck you' attitude. They're obviously having fun together on stage revelling in their wilful contrariness. As usual, 'Curry Club' finishes things off with some incisive lyrics and a swagger.

Glasgow's favourite sardonic pop combo pay a rare visit south to promote their new album, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of The Just Joans. Having formed as a duo, they are now a six-piece including a manic keyboard player and an incontinent drummer.

Song titles like 'You Make Me Physically Sick' and 'The One I Loathe The Least' give a good idea of the sentiments being expressed here, but the vocal interplay between David Pope and his sister Katie is so warm and erudite that you can't help but smile at the lyrical wit and dexterity.

The atmosphere among the crowd is joyful and celebratory, enhanced by a fair gathering from Scotland who lead the singalong to the twice-played 6Music favourite, 'Biblically Speaking.'

A totally impromptu encore of 'What Do We Do Now?' tells a wistful tale of youth that we can all relate to: "...We reminisce 'bout days long gone / We kicked about wi' Kappa tracksuits on." Ah, happy days.

Pete Martin

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Next article in issue 143

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