Irk The River’s ambition for tonight’s gig at the Sways Records Launch Night is a simple one “if we remember the words and if we play in time, we’ll be happy”. The three piece in matching alphabet T-shirts (“we’re auditioning for Sesame Street”) play a shouty post-punk that recalls early Fall, PiL or Gang of Four especially on their single ‘Valette’/’Mind That Child’ which finished the eight song set.
But as well as gritty anger at Manchester ills and very loud wiry/Wire-y guitars, there’s also an occasional slinky swagger behind the waves of noise. And if my music references make Irk The River sound a bit dated, far from it: their set felt very ear-ringingly immediate in the heat and squeeze of the tiny back-room at The Castle.
The precarious lack of stage space at The Castle was further revealed early on in Emperor Zero’s set when the singer leapt off the two small wooden steps only to go crashing into the monitor and its beer crate stand. Since I saw them last November, Emperor Zero have acquired a new drummer (Kyle) and seemingly an added level of energetic vigour. It could be that the flailing guitars, maniacal drums and chaotic abandon was their response to the confined playing area.
Opening not closing their set with the two sides to the current single, the four-piece ably continued with the theme of noise - but their songs are more dense, concentrated even proggy at times (post-punk-prog?). The band suffered several delays – broken bass drum pedal, snare drum needing replacing – but this didn’t detract from the intensity of the songs once they were up and running, performing against a backdrop of Wim Wenders “Wings of Desire” which apparently inspired last song ‘Infernal Desire Machines’. Infernal stage malfunctions aside, an impressively frenzied show of strength, anguished and angry in equal measure.
Closing the evening, The Louche FC were here rounded out to a four-piece with a drummer (as opposed to a drum machine). Not sure if it was this factor, but tonight they were much more confident and assertive than when I’ve seen them play before.
Where shoegaze can denote drift and introspection, here it became about more oomph, more vitality and more noise. But without the needle-in-the-red intensity of the previous two bands, it meant the dream-pop melodies shone out, with a gorgeous debonair fuzziness. They may only be promoting their first single but tonight’s six song set was the moment when I suddenly thought “I want to hear the album”. Surely we won’t have long to wait for a Louche FC long-player?
So three singles launched – and you can buy a triple pack with extras here if you’re quick. The sets were short but fiery – a total of twenty two songs across the three bands – but for a free entry night it would be plain rude to begrudge Sways or any of the bands this. Or the fact the piled-high merch table took up such a huge chunk of precious floor space. Indie labels often have used slogans as their calling card: “The Sound of Young Scotland”; “Pure Pop For Now People”. And Sways Records are no exception, labelling themselves as an “Independent Record Label and Cultural Regenerator, Salford, England”. It suggests attitude, ambition, and a gritty pride with just the right amount of impertinence. I look forward to more cultural regeneration very soon.