LIVE: Document – The Lanes, Bristol – 17/08/2021

LIVE: Document – The Lanes, Bristol – 17/08/2021

This author was a little apprehensive the first time he listened to ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’, by Manchester post-punk band Document.

After all, that just happens to be the name of one of the greatest novels of all time, written by John le Carré way back in 1963. Could these young upstarts really make a song to do justice to one of the great literary works of the Cold War era?

Four-and-a-half minutes later, the answer was very clear.

It is a song of such incredible beauty, dark and soulful. The initial riff is simple, but very deep and powerful. As the song progresses, though, this riff is accompanied by increasing amounts of atmospheric guitar colour. In a way, it really does feel like a le Carré novel – lots of detailed story-building, punctuated with sudden moments of drama and panic as agents are compromised and attacked. The song then unravels into a crescendo, and one can almost picture Alec Leamas’ fateful attempt to cross the Berlin Wall as it plays out.

Never mind ‘do it justice’ – they should remake the movie and play this over the top. It is an utterly brilliant track.

One listen of the other tracks from the band’s debut EP, A Camera Wanders All Night, only serves to reaffirm the view that this might be a very exciting new band. ‘Pity’ seethes with untamed ferocity, aided by an alarming guitar sound and Max Grindle’s pounding bassline. ‘Uncle Sam’s Daughter’, meanwhile, is soulful and pensive, but still exciting. Each track has a distinct sound, and each tells its story impeccably. It is an astoundingly varied, high-quality debut.

This show at The Lanes, as part of the band’s debut tour, sees a decent Tuesday night crowd, and there is a very palpable buzz in the room. No surprise for a city that knows its post-punk like Bristol does.

The set opens with ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’, and if anything, it is even more majestic live than it is on record. The core riff absolutely fills the room, and the guitar colour is ramped up a notch from the recorded version. This really applies to all of the songs from A Camera Wanders All Night (other than ‘American Heat’, which is curiously omitted from the setlist), and they are all the better for it.

The unreleased songs, while maybe lacking the immediacy of A Camera Wanders All Night, definitely hold the attention nicely. Probably the best of them is the penultimate song, listed as ‘Nightclub’ on the setlist, which is a brooding rocker of a track, heavy on the growling punk riffage. Definitely destined to be the next single.

The strength of this band lies in their controlled intensity. They differ in this regard from Evans’ other band, Lumer, which is rather more chaotic, fitting the looser musical dynamic that they have. Document, by contrast, are at their best when there is a heavy core riff for the song to pin to, giving Charlie Marriott’s lead guitar the freedom to experiment. Set closer ‘Pity’ exemplifies this perfectly; the simplicity of the bassline is the secret to its magic. When they veer away from this formula, though, they are perhaps less effective.

They are tight as a live unit, impressively so for a band that only formed in 2019 and played limited shows before being locked down. Evans ventures into the crowd for a couple of tracks, engaging members of the audience one-on-one, and is high-energy throughout the set. With his greased-back hair and leather jacket, he is a powerful frontman. It would be awesome to see the rest of the band in similar attire, to really give that fierce look, but that’s not everyone’s bag. Marriott is an exciting guitarist to watch, and the interaction between the five of them give the clear feeling of a strong unit.

That said, though, the band as a collective would benefit from maintaining their intensity throughout the show. Little things, like band members talking to each other during songs and occasionally staring at the ceiling, take away from that somewhat. They would benefit from following the approach of their Manchester compatriots The Blinders, for example, who keep their intensity up from the moment they go on stage to the moment they leave, not relaxing for one second.

Document aren’t quite the finished article yet, then, but there is plenty here to be excited about. The talent is clear, and they are already more engrossing than the vast majority of bands out there. A band to watch, without question.

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