I’ll never forget last year’s Valentine’s Day weekend. A wonderful evening spent in Hebden Bridge, full of emotion, chaos, hearts fit to burst and copious amounts of sweat… shared amongst a room full of people. That Moonlandingz show really was something…
This year’s Valentine’s Day was no different, continuing the tradition of spending the 14th in the company of a group of strangers. Another great show too – the long awaited Manchester return of Young Legionnaire at The Deaf Institute.
Manchester based singer songwriter Peaks, a.k.a. Ben Forrester, kicked off proceedings with his enchanting blend of loop driven, heart-swelling jams direct from a bedroom in rainy Manchester. Sad pop songs were the order of the day “…as it’s Valentine’s Day” we’re told, though each one is filled with pep and finished off with a wry smile.
Having released his second EP ‘Hollowhead’ at the tail end of last year, those in attendance early doors were treated to cuts from the five track release, such as the nostalgic ‘Dear George, Dear William’ and the wonderful ‘Rain City, What A Pity’. There were a few niggles here and there, but that’s to be expected when you’re up on stage by yourself, spinning plates. Besides, the minor glitches were covered in humorous fashion as Ben announced that the crowd stick with him as what he was attempting to build-up to would be worth it. The support for Young Legionnaire marked the beginning of a week’s worth of shows for Peaks, a sure sign that he’s making more moves out of the confines of his Mancunian residence.
If memory serves, there’s a humorous line in a song from cult Welsh band Future Of The Left (one of the many, in fact) where Falco mentions something about Northern accents in music equalling dollar signs. I can’t remember the title of the track, nor whether that’s actually even something from a FOTL song, and I’m most likely missing the sentiment… but I do know this – NARCS are Northern as you like and that’s a huge plus point from me.
From Leeds with love, the Northern noise-mongers had been with Young Legionnaire all the way through this run of UK shows, drafting in Scott Lewis, head honcho at Clue Records, to come in on guitar duties as their actual guitarist snapped some bones in his arm prior to tour! You’d think this would slow them down somewhat, but NARCS were just as ferocious in their adapted set up, putting in a hell of a strong showing.
Full of pent up anger, they reminded me in parts of the all-out-assault of And Yet It Moves – the occasional strained, shredded vocal sounding similar to that of Glasgow’s favourite son, Dale Barclay. NARCS keep popping up everywhere – a good thing too, with them seemingly going from strength to strength. Not even broken bones can stop them!
With the on stage arrival of Young Legionnaire, I’m reminded of the second time I saw them live, up the road at The Ruby Lounge. That evening they weren’t competing with a hallmark-holiday, rather the long awaited return of Death From Above 1979 to Manchester (funnily enough, I actually discovered Young Legionnaire at one of the DFA1979 London comeback shows earlier in the year). They were up against the wall back then, with a smaller crowd given the circumstances, but walked on stage with a bottle of rum to share between those in attendance and still put on a blistering set, content to play just as they would to a heaving room.
Tuesday evening at The Deaf Institute near enough mirrored that night back in 2011, with Young Legionnaire up against St Valentine’s stealing bodies (who might otherwise have bought a ticket had it been a day either side), yet still locking in and battering out a set full of room-shakers.
Given their geographical circumstances (a bassist in Texas, a drummer down South and a guitarist in Berlin), the opportunities for the members of Young Legionnaire to all be in the same room as one another are few and far between. But having spoken with bass player Gordon Moakes last year prior to the release of the new album, he suggested that there’s an unspoken three-way mental connection that can see the band seemingly pick up and play without as much as a week of rehearsals.
“We’ve got to the point where we can be apart for months and then get into a room and people will say – you don’t sound like you’ve been away.”
‘Disappear’ – the first track released from new album ‘Zero Worship’ – came in hard as an opener, the trio standing true to their word and sounding like they’d never been away. The stop-start of the chorus offers minuscule breaks from the crushing wall of sound, and vocalist Paul Mullen’s vocal delivery was just as sharp and hair-raising as on record.
The skull-crushing riff of ‘Killdozer’ – taken from their ‘Wreckonomics’ EP of 2012 – came not long after, and what’s notable about their older material is its longevity, with each song plucked from their previous releases sounding just as unique and fresh. From the thundering ‘Colossus’ to ‘A Hole In The World’ and its lump-in-the-throat chorus. Everything sounds just as good here as it did way back when, with the huge ‘Chapter, Verse’ making a more than welcome appearance mid-way through.
It was a thrill to hear cuts from Zero Worship in a live setting, with the unnerving groove of ‘Candidate’ and the heavy crunch of ‘Heart Attack’ being absolute highlights. A climactic set ends with the destruction of drummer Dean Pearson’s kit, stripped away from him piece by piece before he’s left with the bare minimum. A fitting end to their longest UK tour in at least five years – a welcome return. Let’s hope it won’t be another half-decade before we see them again.