The Longcut might not be the most prolific band in the world — Arrows is just their third album in 13 years — and not particularly well known outside Manchester (and not particularly well known inside the M60 either, for that matter), but those who know, know. The Longcut are one of the best live bands around. This writer first saw them in a basement in Wrexham weeks after starting university in 2004 and they’ve consistently, if sporadically, been highlights of my gig-going life; above a pub in Stockport just after I graduated, above a pub in Brighton with my soon-to-be girlfriend five years later, above a pub first on for the Carefully Planned Festival several years on from that.
Live, as anyone who has sweated buckets dancing beside me at any of the aforementioned dates will agree, they are utterly arresting. Lee Gale’s inventive guitar lines provide the forward motion, chopping and chiming and chastising with a drum stick. Bassist Jon Fearon provides the backbone, pulsating and pounding. Singer and drummer Stuart Ogilvie alternately yells into the microphone, fiddles with a drum machine and runs back behind his kit to give it a sound thrashing at the climax of any given song.This formula, while incredible live, doesn’t necessarily translate on record. Once you know the formula you can hear the transitions, the ebb and flow built into these songs that allow Ogilvie to dart back to his stool or front and centre to holler into his mic.
Perhaps they’re aware of how these things go, their songwriting processes built on the hypnotic effects of repetition like the way everyday life has got in the way of making this record almost ten years on from their previous, the hypnotic effects of repetition like “Fractals repeating endlessly”. Where Open Hearts was more electronically focussed than debut A Call and Response, Arrows is more mature, a distillation of the influences of its predecessors.
That sense of maturity shouldn’t be mistaken for blunting their sharp edges, though. It manifests itself as a sort of air of confidence in their convictions, sticking to their guns to hone that formula rather than allowing it to become stale. Single ‘Deathmask’ is as urgent, as frantic, as shivers-down-the-spine vital as those early singles ‘Transition’ and ‘A Quiet Life’ that laid waste to those same venues all those years ago. The hype may have died down now, and they’re surely happy about that, but the Longcut are just as essential as they’ve ever been. Let’s just hope they take some shortcuts for the next album or my knees won’t be able to take the dancing by the time it’s released.
Arrows is out now on Deltasonic.