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LIVE: Mutes / Spits Milk / Exotic Pets – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, 22/05/2024

Formed just over ten years ago as a solo project for frontman James, Mutes are playing a hometown show, at one of their city’s finest venues, to promote their fourth album …Buried Where You Stand, which was released last Friday.

Opening up proceedings tonight are the never boring Exotic Pets, a band so full of ideas that you never quite know in which direction their songs will go next. There are shades of Pavement’s more obtuse side in their sound with vocals somewhere between Captain Beefheart and Art Brut’s Eddie Argos. Their set flashes by to such an extent that even they don’t seem to realise that they have finished.

Also in B-Town (very much a thing back in 2013 when Mutes were starting out!) tonight are the enigmatic Spits Milk, who sometimes sound a little like …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead albeit with a little essence of shoegaze and a pinch of a harder rock sound for good measure.

Mutes have apparently decided to concentrate on their excellent new album for the main body of tonight’s show, kicking off with its opening track, and also their latest single, ‘Transparency’. They are one of those three-piece bands that find a real power in that classic configuration, often sounding like a larger group. In the live setting, James’ vocals are a little higher in the mix, and he does a fine job of playing the often intricate guitar parts as well as singing. Craig on drums and Tom on bass complete the trio and both are excellent – the music isn’t straightforward and they are very much tuned in tonight. Further following the album’s running order, perhaps its best track, ‘Televangelist’ comes next, continuing the high octane feel of the show.

The band have an all-encompassing, hypnotic quality, which is intensified by the lack of chatter between songs, or indeed any dead space at all between songs – soundscapes are constructed to segue from song to song, a little like My Bloody Valentine might do on Loveless or Tremelo E.P. It gives the impression of a continuous piece and it really works. ‘Barely Living Proof’ is another recent single and sounds superb, as do the other songs from the album, which is almost performed in its entirety. ‘Perfumed Corpse’ is a far more attractive proposition than its name suggests, the chiming guitars adding a bit of light to the atmosphere of the quite intense show.

Bands don’t tend to leave the stage at the Hare & Hounds before performing encores, but there is a breakwater in the set when James actually speaks to the audience to say “That was pretty much the album, now we’ll play a couple of older ones” before playing a further three songs ending with an incendiary ‘Mere Slaughter’.

Mutes tonight sound like they are ready to conquer the World, catch them if you can!

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.