Probably one of the finest bills put together this year, Joyce Manor’s jaunt around the UK offered the chance to see two US acts that have put out stellar records this year AND one of the UK underground’s finest up-and-coming acts. It’s just a shame no-one told the M25 to behave.
Even setting off 3 hours before Great Cynics were due on stage was not enough to get to North London in time to see the London/Devon mob. Instead, a hole had reduced the UK’s busiest motorway to a crawl for 8 junctions, meaning by the time we slipped into the Dome there was barely enough time to settle in before Cheap Girls took to the stage.
There’s no faulting the Michigan trio musically. Drawing heavily off this year’s excellent ‘Famous Graves’ they power through a 45 minute set without letting up. Audience participation is kept to a minimum – indeed, the most they mutter doesn’t extend much beyond a courteous ‘hi’ – but they sound great throughout with the likes of ‘Knock Me Over’ and ‘Pure Hate’ having a bit more of an edge than they do have on record. However, they’re not the most exciting band to watch, despite the copious amounts of shaggy hair and plaid on show. As a result, they’re met with nodding heads and polite appreciation rather than rapturous applause. A fellow punter at the bar will describe them as “a little bit dull”, which is a harsh considering the quality of the songs, (especially the excellent ‘Man In Question’ and ‘Ruby’,) but in truth it’s more that they’re a bit too one-dimensional live to really set the pulse racing. (3/5)
Joyce Manor have no such problems. Walking out to Elvis Costello’s ‘Oliver’s Army’ they immediately rip into ‘Constant Headache’ and the place goes off. In a strong one-two they follow it up with ‘Derailed’ and in that instant it’s clear they’ve got the audience right on side – no doubt important following recent spats regarding stage divers at the shows in the States.
Like Cheap Girls, Joyce Manor also have a new album to draw off, and they do so heavily. ‘Schley’, ‘In The Army Now’, ‘Victoria’ and ‘Heart Tattoo’ all get an airing, and all get welcomed like old friends – ‘Victoria’ and ‘Heart Tattoo’ in particular provoking mass sing-alongs in the process. For an album out barely four months, it’s a remarkable achievement.
However, watching Joyce Manor live is like watching a band playing at a different speed and time to conventional norms. Their set may be nearly 20 songs long, but it’s still barely 40 minutes of music. They crash through ‘The Jerk’, the outstanding cut from this year’s ‘Never Hungover Again’, barrel through ‘Violent Inside’ and obliterate ‘Leather Jacket’ before they disappear for barely 20 seconds before coming back on for an encore of ‘Five Beer Plan’. Such a brief encore is fitting for a band that specialises in sub-two minute pop-punk bangers – and in that regard, tonight has been a masterclass. (5/5)
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)