COVES, LUSTS, MARY JOANNA – The Castle Hotel – Manchester 9th March 2015
Live music eh? At its absolute worst, it’s a bellicose, pissed up one armed bloke with a Casio keyboard playing Beatles medleys in the style of Vic Reeves’ infamous club singer (believe us, we’ve seen that happen *shudder*) – But at its best it’s a night very much like the one we’ve just experienced at Manchester’s Castle Hotel. It’s in venues such as this that you’re far more likely to discover genuine musical talent than via say, mainstream daytime radio or on TV, which shamefully lacks a platform for emerging artists unless it’s viewed through the twattish reductive prism that is the ‘talent show’ format. This is one of the many reasons why creative communities up and down the country are becoming increasingly marginalised and incensed by the relentless onslaught of gentrification (aided by absurd noise abatement orders) that is afflicting our inner cities like a grasping sweaty palmed plague. Put simply, and rather crudely, these are direct attacks on creativity and individuality for the sake of short-term profit by an unholy alliance of Local Authorities and acquisitional sweaty bollocked bellends in suits. Even a drooling simpleton would have to concede that small to midsize independent venues are the lifeblood of live music – when they’re gone they’re gone and what will remain will be soulless corporate venues offering the sort of choice that could be described as akin to deciding whether to shop at Tesco’s or Tesco’s Extra.
Tonight’s openers are a local trio Mary Joanna, consist of sister and brother Mary Joanna and Will Coogan alongside Mary Joanna’s other half, guitarist Stephen Evans. Mixing textured ethereal dreampop, synth flourishes, 60’s tinged melodies and chiming guitars with Mary Joanna’s soaring crystalline vocals the trio produce a hugely impressive sound. At times it’s reminiscent of Lone Justice/Maria McKee at their best and tracks such as ‘Bad Traffic’ ‘Monday’ and I Don’t Mind’ highlight the quality and diversity of the trios tunes. They even manage to throw in a sublime cover of Sparks ‘Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth’ which serves to emphasise the charismatic star quality that singer Mary Joanna undoubtedly possesses.
Second on the bill was LUSTS, who arrived on the scene last year with precious little information about their background available, all we knew was that they were brothers, they were from Leicester, and they wrote music that conjured up a young Ian McCulloch colliding with The House Of Love. It’s a sound awash with chiming reverb, surging synths and an imposing vocal. Watching Lusts live, it’s not just the quality of the songs that impress, but the fact that the duo really do sound like a full-on band. Their set proved that these lads have the songs and ability to take things to another level, evidenced by the crowd’s enthusiastic response. There are certainly hints of the majesty of early Bunnymen but there are also hints of propulsive Kraut rock, and a dash of early New Order. In a live setting ‘Sometimes’ the first track the band released last year sounds huge, as does the band’s debut single ‘Temptation’ and although it’s very early days the potential is there for all to see.
Headliners Coves just get better and better, based around the creative core of Rebekah Wood and John Ridgard, 2014 was their most successful year to date with their wonderful debut album Soft Friday quite rightly attracting universal praise. They traversed Europe supporting St. Vincent and at the end of year played stateside as guests of The Raveonettes. It’ is gratifying to see a band you’ve believed in from the offset develop, take things to dizzying new heights and see their hard, commitment and passion beginning to pay off.
Previously their live shows were merely superb, but now they produce an overwhelming beautiful, heart bursting rush of beautiful noise. Combining narcotic sensuality with tales of heartbreak despair, revenge, redemption and lust Coves beguile and entrance from start to finish. Beck Wood’s vocal has oft been described as cool and aloof, although we prefer to think of her delivery as seductive, with an undercurrent of menace. Moreover, it perfectly conveyed the mood and tone of the debut album, a beautiful bittersweet collection of songs, of which we said at the time proved ‘ that when you channel heartbreak and misery into something constructive you can create something that positively shimmers with life affirming beauty.’
There’s certainly no sense of aloofness as Coves throw themselves headlong into a breathless, passionate powerful set, full of surging beats, ethereal vocals, punctuated by guitarist John Ridgard’s shuddering sonic thunderbolts. The set essentially consists of the highlights from Soft Friday plus new tracks from their soon to be released Spectrum Ep, which included the mesmerising ‘No Looking Back’. Coves may have been tagged by many as part of the neo shoegaze/pysch revival and although they certainly have their influences, they stand apart due in no small part to John ‘The Hat’ Ridgard’s inventive arrangements and unique guitar style, which are enhanced and complemented by Beck Wood’s lyrical flair. She has that rare ability to succinctly sum up an emotion or convey an atmosphere with just a few well-chosen words without ever resorting to clichés. They really are a wonderful band and hopefully we’ll get to see em again, before they hunker down to work on album two.