Bang! And the dirt of Budget announcements is gone, replaced with the pristine sparkle of The Crookes’ 80s-sounding indie pop. A mixed haggle of 20somethings and not-so-20somethings clutter FAC 251, hoping to escape the gloom of petrol prices and be captured by the swell of guitars.
First to offer them salvation were Sheffield’s Seize the Chair. Taking to the stage in a rather subdued manner, they instantly defied the ‘loser indie boys’ stereotype and began bouncing around with gusto. Nick and Rowan’s poppy guitar hooks wove in and out of each other impressively as they screamed bursts of noise. Backing them up is the rhythm section of Steve on bass and Jam on drums, who switched between driving the riffs forward and leading the way at opportune moments. Deborah was guided by a fantastic groove that is reminiscent of later Fugazi and is easily the song which will get them noticed. On the flip side, the quartet displayed a “psychedelic” (as Nick described it) bent by slowing down the pace and swapping shouts for Ian Curtis-style mumbles. It worked well on Kitchen but You Who? sounded suspiciously close to Blondie’s disco punk classic Heart of Glass. Seize the Chair’s set was a great display of how to cherry pick from your influences and twist them into your own flavour.
Kitsch, arthouse-sounding spoken word samples then started to fill up the room and attention turned towards the stage, bathed in sexy velvet purple lights. The Crookes sauntered out in their fully buttoned shirts and created an atmosphere of “we take ourselves too seriously”. Fortunately, that couldn’t have been any further from the truth. A special mention must go to frontman George’s banter, which is worthy of at least 8 out of 10. He communicated well and actually managed to get the largely static crowd to move their bodies in time with music. Hats off.
As for the noise itself: superb. It’s no secret that a lot of people like The Smiths but The Crookes channelled the general spirit of the 80s without sounding like a covers band. Godless Girl and Bright Young Things kept up a solid energy and the songs were really brought to life onstage. Despite the fact that their debut record, Chasing After Ghosts, had only been out since Monday, much of the unfamiliar material kept heads bobbing. However, the real highlight came at the midway point, as the entire room got together for “the first song [they] ever wrote”, Backstreet Lovers. It captured a band on stunning form and the crowd sing-along it caused felt appropriate.
Unfortunately, such a great showing came at the price of turning the set closer, City of Lights, into an anti-climax. As the guitars turned down, chatter in the room turned up and it’s unfortunate that a sterling performance was given a late blemish. The Crookes have started on the road to somewhere good and, with a bit of luck, they’ll get there fast.