Peace, Drenge - The Ritz, Manchester, 11th December 2013

Peace, Drenge – The Ritz, Manchester, 11th December 2013

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Drenge // 20:00

Castleton [just near Sheffield, on the Derbyshire/South Yorkshire border – Geography Ed] brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless apparently take their band name from the Danish word for “boys”. But since the release of their debut self-titled album earlier this year, and the wealth of exposure it has gotten them in the national music press, the word “Drenge” has taken on an entirely new definition.

It has become the word that perfectly describes their muddied, swampy guitar-and-drums attack. A word tinged with just the right amount of ugliness for the two-piece’s remorseless scuzz barrage, and – perhaps most importantly – a word strange enough to be remembered easily, and a damn sight more fun that most band names to say.

Tonight, Drenge tear into Manchester at full throttle. Though Eoin’s guitar seems mired in distortion (a bit “Drengey”, if you will) for the first couple of tracks, it’s an energetic start that sees band and audience trying to one-up each other for energy, turning the majority of The Ritz’ spring-loaded dance floor into a circling pit of po-going and moshers.

Those early sound difficulties are quickly solved, and it’s refreshing to see a two-piece drums-and-guitar combo who can’t just be explained away as “sounding a bit like The White Stripes.” So often these bands fall into the same tired blues-rock clichés (Black KeysTwo Gallants… even Blood Red Shoes are dangerously close to the bone on their new material), that it’s exhilarating to hear a wealth of musical influences in tonight’s performance. Sure, Eoin’s vocals occasionally tread the blues-rock causeway – as on the stoic ‘Dogmeat’ – but the 21-year old singer gives off the impression he would almost certainly be on the Jason Stollsteimer side of a Detroit bar fight.

The strained guitar wails of ‘Bloodsports’ pulsating garage-rock heart are every bit as Bleach-era Nirvana as they are Death From Above 1979 dance floor filler, and the scattergun drums and vocal screams of the two-minute ‘I Wanna Break You In Half’ could easily be a forgotten cut found lurking in the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster’s basement.

‘Fuckabout’ proves the highlight of the set, it’s loud-quiet-LOUD dynamics giving Drenge their most fully formed song yet. Rory tosses an empty water bottle in Eoin’s direction as he coyly announces “this song is a Fuckabout” in the track’s intro, but the anguished lyrics and explosions of Jonny Greenwood guitars would not have looked out of place headlining the Pyramid Stage in 1997. A ‘Fuckabout’ this song most certainly ain’t.

The set is a turbulent bowl of roaring distortion throughout, Eoin never letting his instrument fall silent on guitar changes. He instead opts to leave the hiss of an unconnected jack to run through his pedals, becoming an unrelenting tempest of noise.

They finish on ‘Face like a Skull’ arguably the best offering from their pool of recent singles, and Eoin abandons his guitar completely to screech the final chorus into his mic, and leaves the stage to a heady wash of feedback. A total “Drenge”.

Best song: Fuckabout

Peace // 21:10

The audience for Peace’s headline set is so depressingly young you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into the Christmas panto the moment the band step onstage. The crowd might as well be screaming “he’s behind you!” at singer Harry Koisser as drummer Dominic Boyce gets things underway with ‘Waste of Paint’.

It’s a strange choice of opener, but one that works surprisingly well in the setting; it’s almost the band’s ultimate paean to all things Madchester, the rolling drumbeats recalling the best of the Happy Mondays as Koisser coos Ian Brown vocals over the top. Sam Koisser plays up his part of ‘slightly camp Britpop bassist à la Alex James’ to perfection, while guitarist Douglas Castle strikes the kind of rock-star poses that would’ve been impossible for him to get away with this time last year. Peace’s star is very much one on the rise.

‘Follow Baby’ lacks the fierceness or growl it carries on record, leaving it all feeling a bit flat. Recent singles ‘Wraith’ and ‘Bloodshake’ are subject to the same fate, and it’s left up to the Manchester crowd to ponder just why their more ambitious ‘calypso tinged’ songs don’t work so well in the live setting once they’re stripped of the nuances that only a studio production can give. The songs that really shine tonight are the band’s slower, typically more ‘standard’ tracks; both ‘Float Forever’ and ‘California Daze’ manage to evoke a sense of festival euphoria among the crowd on a cold Wednesday in December.

We’re treated to new song ‘Money’, and what’s striking is the familiarity of it all. The main riff could have been lifted from any number of early 80s disco-rock hits, and the bass line is Blur’s ‘Girls & Boys’ 2.0. Tt’s by no means single material though, and sparkles with all the charisma of second album filler.  One of the worries of bands turning out albums so quickly (Peace are reportedly set to release their second album in spring next year, only a year from their debut), is that they lose the charm of what made the band special in the first place. Hopefully the Peace boys are above that, and next year’s second LP won’t be as tepid as it has the capacity to be.

‘Sugarstone’ also gets a relatively rare live showing, perhaps again because we’re in Manchester and that chorus could’ve been cut and pasted from any of Noel Gallagher’s tenderer moments, and being two weeks removed from Christmas we’re of course treated to an almost obligatory live airing of Peace’s uninspiring cover of Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’. Featured in their cynically titled ‘Christmas Advert’ on YouTube, live it reeks of Battle of the Bands hamminess. While it does reduce a girl leaning over the balcony to tears, it’s doubtful it’ll spark a panic buy of Harry Koisser posters in the same wayGeorge Michael could thirty years ago.

Best song: Waste Of Paint

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