THE COATHANGERS/ SPRINGBREAK/ SELF HELP, Future Perfect, Bully, 16/5/17
If this review were broadcast by BBC News this paragraph would be accompanied by an unnecessarily flashy infographic illustrating how new wave is an attempt to resolve the opposing forces of melody, energy and sloppiness. Self Help may have a little developing to do, but at their best they stumble across this sonic tightrope impeccably. “Won’t You” has the insane catchiness of Os Mutantes’ “Bat Macumba”, the cheery steamroller bludgeon of your favourite Buzzcocks classic and the droopy-eyed delivery of a band who just woke up from a week-long kip. “Gooey” is a lost Wannadies hit delivered with the lackadaisical cool of The Strokes, albeit once the New York glamour’s been scrubbed off with lager-anointed chip paper. There are superfluous moments – the odd guitar solo, and a tendency to decelerate every song to a teetering stop – but if Self Help can hone down to the glowing pop core of their music, they’ll be a glorious band.
Bristol’s Springbreak also pull in different directions simultaneously, but although they are the more intriguing band, the success rate is slightly lower. Most of the set consists of sweet, perky indie pop lost behind an ambient peasouper of malleted cymbals and Cocteau Twins guitar shimmer, sounding like The Sundays would if you left them in your hip pocket and put them through the wash. Although coming across as about the nicest and most ethical band you could hope to swap coloured vinyl with, there are times when the music feels frustratingly mismatched, but feminist rant closer “I’m Walking Here” pulls them over the victory line, the shoegaze fug acting as shimmering backdrop to the song’s euphoric anger, rather than obscuring veil. Cue swingometer swoop.
You’d think that Atlanta punk trio The Coathangers would have no room for variation in their scrappy brattish bashing, but, in contradiction to every punk show played in history this set actually becomes more interesting as it goes along. Sure, the first half is good, Ramones directness and Stooges scuzz played with the tinny-fuelled bonhomie of the post-record industry house show generation, but the second half is superb. Somewhere around the time of the most economic diss of Oxford on record (stare down the crowd; intone “Harry Potter” in a quavery voice; giggle), the band starts swapping instruments, loosening up, wobbling into a pseudo-rap territory and generally becoming more childishly joyous than is decent. By the time of the last number, essentially a dumbass solo for squeaky dog toy, we’re reminded of ultra-early Beastie Boys, albeit with a more enlightened agenda. We did have an animation to illustrate the journey this gig took, but someone’s sprayed a big pair of boobies on the monitor. Landslide victory for the iron(y) ladies.