Fangclub with Saults and Darma- Night People, Manchester - 10.10.19 / Louder Live
Dreary Northern autumn evenings often bring about a state of melancholy amongst visiting bands whose home turf consists of blazing sunshine and rolling sea views. However, hailing from Dublin, home of the eternal downpour, garage rockers Fangclub were no strangers to a somewhat miserable evening- and in fact, that dour internal and external landscape is exactly what has fuelled their resonant alt rock/garage fusion that saw them explode into being a couple of years previously, and can be found re-invigorated on their latest record, ‘Vulture Culture’. So if anyone was going to liven up a sombre Manchester evening, they were certainly the band for the job!
Imagine, if you will, if Soundgarden’s smash-hit ‘Black Hole Sun’ formed musical offspring with Sum 41’s ‘Chuck’, and that should give you a pretty good feel for the night’s openers, Darma. Local lads, their charming Manc personalities shone through from the off, with genial onstage banter and a genuinely humble demeanour, which was encapsulated in their penultimate offering, a cover of ‘SOS’ by Swedish pop giants ABBA- which, while intended to be a little tongue-in-cheek, was actually executed with a great deal of finesse! That authentic class also spread to their own material, which was jam-packed with big, sludgy basslines and gutsy guitar tones, as found on tracks such as ‘Fall Asleep’, with its rumbling crescendo into the wonderfully off-kilter bridge. Perhaps most impressive of all was the effortless power of the lead vocals, the smoothness of which was the perfect dichotomy to their fuzz-filled melodies- Darma are a true testament as to why you’d be a mug to pass up watching the opening bands!
Drafted in to the night’s proceedings at late notice, post punkers Saults picked up the baton from their predecessors when it came to the thematic content of their lyrics, delivering dissonant musings on the state of the environment and corrupted ideas of nationalism, yet in a distinctly more candid, coarse manner. With vocals that fell somewhere between being spoken and sung, and guitar lines that were unrefined but rarely jarring, the raw passion of their vocalist in particular was undeniable, though at times a touch abrasive for the somewhat mellower Thursday night crowd! The cantering vigour of their choruses on tracks such as ‘Mundane’ was lively enough to punch through the at times impenetrable wall of sound reverberating from the stage, and the sentiment that shone through on closer ‘Proud to be British’ opened up a small chink of vulnerability in the band’s brusque exoskeleton that elevated their performance infinitely.
It is often the case that the darkest times and most violent struggles bring about the most resonant art, and for Fangclub this could not be more apt. After confessing to almost imploding as a band last year, they take to the stage now as a trio reborn – and with a refreshed discography of sucker-punching tracks behind them to ensure nobody is in any doubt that Fangclub are back, and here to stay! In the tiny room, the sheer velocity of their performance was deafening- from the acerbic, biting ‘Viva Violent’ to the crunching guitars and brittle bassline of ‘Hesitations’, both the band’s love of alt rock rhythms and hefty, chomping beats were wildly evident! Despite much hair-swinging of the band’s vast array of impressive locks, their performance itself (owing in part to their self-contained demeanour, and also due to the condensed nature of the stage!) was remarkably understated- which only served to counteract their razor-sharp Irish humour, and their bulldozing choruses! The grumbling ‘Dreamcatcher’ delighted the core fans in attendance, while also reaching out to those new arrivals via it’s lighter-waving melody and bruising, grunge-esque vocal line. Similarly, the driving ‘Bullethead’ was a fist-pumping dream, which most definitely resulted in some aching necks the following day from excessive headbanging!
Undeniably the highlight of the entire evening, however, was the 6-minute heart-wrencher ‘Last Time’. Soft and folky in its first half, the track shivered out through the room, even more beautifully fragile than on the record- and frontman Steven King‘s admission that singing the lyrics was always a struggle only highlighted their palpable, haunting delicacy. Even as it kicked into gear in the final chorus, the aching pain that ran like an undercurrent through the track was still every bit as evident, a balance that is simply divine when struck that perfectly. It was really only fitting that their set ended with an impromptu lip-sync, with backing vocal provided by the crowd, of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’- because after that performance, one couldn’t help but fall hopelessly in love with Fangclub!
Fangclub's latest record, 'Vulture Culture', is out now via Vertigo Records.
Check out the video for the record's lead single, 'Hesitations', below:
Fangclub still have several dates of their UK run remaining- the full list can e found below and tickets are available here:
13th Bristol, Crofters Rights
14th Exeter, Cavern Club
16th London, Camden Assembly
17th St. Albans, The Horn
19th Brighton, The Green Door Store
20th Southampton, Joiners
24th Zurich, Werk 21
25th Nyon, La Paranthese
27th Munich, Folks! Club
28th Vienna, Arena
30th Berlin, Auster Club
31st Hamburg, Hafenklang
3rd Netherlands, Cinetol
13th Dublin, Button Factory