GIRLS' NAMES / TOO MANY POETS / SWOONS, 24TH MARCH 2016, OXFORD BULLINGDON
Noisey, Vice's music channel/website, recently managed to get Johnny Borrell to act as the guide for a potted history of landfill indie - a move akin to rubbing a dog's face in its own shit. Attending a Swoons gig would no doubt be a far more pleasurable experience for the former Razorlight frontman, who would likely see something of himself in vocalist/guitarist Luke Duffett, exuding charisma and self-confidence despite suffering the after-effects of a dodgy KFC bucket.
The trio's clean-cut, anthemically inclined indie means they have easily the greatest commercial potential of the three bands on tonight's bill, but the fact that Borrell's toe would be tapping is more than enough to get Nightshift's own stomach churning queasily.
If bands like Swoons can be found anywhere the length and breadth of the country, the same certainly can't be said of Witney's Too Many Poets. There's something of the night about the former Nightshift Demo Of The Monthers' curious yet undeniably distinctive fusion of Eagulls, grungey metal and portentous goth - unsettling for the reviewer in that it resists any attempt at pigeonholing, but occasionally thrilling for the listener.
'iMobile', the explosive lead track from January's debut EP Relying On Reflections, channels paranoia on a David Icke/Daily Mail scale in its sinister assertion that "this endless information flow" is "slowly rotting the mind of our youth". I don't investigate the merch table, but presumably they have a nice line in tinfoil hats.
You might expect that eight shows in five days would reduce a band to teary exhaustion, but Girls Names' intense SXSW itinerary (in support of latest LP Arms Around A Vision) appears to have had the exact opposite effect, energising and sharpening their headline set. It's impossible not to spare a thought for poor put-upon drummer Gib Cassidy, who has to work incredibly hard to set the pace and is barely allowed a break, like Joy Division's Stephen Morris drumming on the roof in 24 Hour Party People.
The Belfast quartet's tightly coiled post-punk, not dissimilar to Wire on record, is highly recommended for anyone who (like me) loves 'The Answer' but thinks Savages' Adore Life becomes a little tame thereafter. Live, though, the songs are largely indistinguishable in the din, as punishing as that SXSW schedule, with founder member Cathal Cully barking with exaggerated enunciation over the top, stretching words out into weird shapes. It comes as little surprise to learn that when using angle grinders while working as a labourer, he used to pretend he was in Einsturzende Neubauten.
Cully and company are at their best when they forget about keeping things concise and instead throw off the shackles and get lost in the nihilistic minimalism and principled repetition of their no wave influences - even if Cassidy won't thank me for saying so.
(An edited version of this review appears in the May issue of Nightshift.)