One of the factors I used to convince our lass to join me on Saturday evening at the Then Thickens show in Manchester (other than singing ‘Tiny Legs’ at her at least once a week since we’ve lived together) was the humour expected of front man Jon-Lee Martin. Watching Then Thickens a few years back at 2000trees Festival in Cheltenham, it became evident that the long-haired frontman could have easily done 10 minutes stand-up aside from their set, such was the hilarity of his in-between chatter.
As it turns out, on the night there was pretty much 0% chat from Jon-Lee, other than enthusiastic appreciation. But with patter put to one side, what we got instead was a set full of glittering, full on poppy-alt-rock smashers. If that’s the price to pay for a strong ten song set from Then Thickens, so be it.
Straight out of the gate and we were treated to two straight up groovy-as-anything head-bobbers to kick things off. They’re the first in a run of new songs from the evening, taken from their soon to be announced third album. On ‘You Are Amazing’, Jon-Lee really shows off his vocal chops, set against the smashing of drums from Charlie Hartley. Elsewhere, ‘Never Be Normal’ has pop hit written all over it and is a more than welcome indicator of what we can expect from their follow up to 2015’s ‘Colic’.
The new material from the Chorley collective is thoroughly enjoyable in its own right, even before one gets chance to properly decipher the lyrics and the crude, hilarious and likely morbid tales within. That’s what’s so interesting and likeable about Then Thickens – these sparkly, infectious jams that, once you peel back a layer or two, lyrically deal in tales of sexual perversion and depression, bought on by the occasional bout of sleep paralysis.
‘My Sunday’ gets an outing, a wonderfully catchy number from Colic, underpinned (as amentioned previously) by its tragic tale of drug devotion. It’s hard not to sport a huge grin such is its uplifting, summery nature, whilst all the while Jon-Lee laments about feeling empty and like a sack of shite. The undeniable pop smash ‘Tiny Legs’ was of course on the menu, coming up early in the evening. Sounding even more stripped back and subdued here, it was enough to send shivers as it picked up the pace in the pulse racing closing stretch. Elsewhere, the drug fuelled love song ‘Any Other Thing’ from 2014 debut LP ‘Death Cap at Anglezarke’ brought strong Weezer-esque vibes with its closing guitar solo.
At the announcement of their final song of the evening – ‘My Amsterdam’ – the band were nearly booed out of the building. Thankfully, Jon-Lee smoothed things over by suggesting that it’s all necessary: “Look at me – I’m fucking wet through!” The thoughtful, hypnotic track from the tail end of Colic acted as a swell goodbye from the band and its gnarly, wall-shaking closing left a lasting impression. Deafening chants of “CHORLEY!” rang throughout the venue long after Then Thickens had left the stage, but it was all for nowt.
Their appearance in Manchester was heavy on new material, peppered with the odd number from previous releases, which on paper is what you might expect from a band touring their latest release. Instead, one gets the impression that Then Thickens were ironing out the kinks of a strong set of songs before hitting up the studio. On Saturday night we heard the offerings of a band on the cusp of doing brilliant things on their third full length (oo-er). If that makes Manchester their initial testing site, there’s no complaints here.