Tonight at The Sunflower Lounge has a distinctive 90s flavour to the acts on offer. Joining Brooklyn-based headliners Charly Bliss are three Birmingham acts all with their minds variously focused on the Seattle sound, Weezer or the Golden Era of Emo.
Local lowercase singer/songwriter the chalet lines is up first. A pleasantly concise set includes such highlights as an attempted but cheerfully abandoned Pinegrove cover, a smattering of jovial banter and a song literally about sleep. His happy-go-lucky demeanour and stage presence betrays the emotionally wrought songs he offers, including the absolutely fab new one ‘it’s a great day for being sad’. He impressed all around, but the stand out is his voice, which at its best recalls Deftones’ Chino Moreno in his whispered mode but with a range that puts other acoustic troubadours to shame.
As pre-warned above, I did not think much of second band, Birmingham’s Coffee Breath. Seemingly a parody of the collected works of the brothers Kinsella, reams of intricate guitar squeals spool out of their dual guitarists until they are met with abrupt changes in tempo. To pull off their awkward schizoid compositions means they work well as a band, but Coffee Breath are so preoccupied with whether they could write multiple start stops into a song that they don’t (start) stop to think if they should. Despite my not-quite getting it, pockets of the crowd seem to be into them, so they must be doing something right.
MUTES hit like a truck. Propulsive, primal rock n’roll. Songs lasting at least five minutes a piece, where they build layers and layers of sound atop the same root low-end grooves, reach their absolute apex then bail out. Any band you want to compare them to doesn’t quite fit: Sonic Youth at their most rock-orientated? A more hard-nosed Television? An analogue Kraftwerk? All this pigeon-holing is thrown out the window by the grunge-tastic ‘A Burial’ which provokes the only moshpit of the night. If you get a chance, see Mutes live.
Starting with the obtuse instrumental build of ‘Percolator’, CHARLY BLISS begin as they mean to go on: playing razor-sharp fizzy little cherry bombs of pop rock goodness. Admittedly, the vocals are a bit low in the mix, overpowered by the rumble of bass and whip-crack drumming, but those in attendance sing back every word. This is the last night of their European Tour which, based on Eva Hendricks sincerely shocked reaction at the pure enthusiasm of the crowd, must have been a little disappointing. Tonight you get the feeling that this band are a ‘Stacy’s Mom’ away from the big time but as it is they’re playing 120-size show like this.
While Hendricks with her bouncing energy is undoubtedly the focus, in a live setting the sharply utilised power-pop guitar lines that rip through the noise and hit you just right. Spencer Fox’s solo on ‘Glitter’ is the kind of thing a grunge Cheap Trick would be proud of. The two new songs are just as kinetic, the second one (‘Punkie’) beefed up by pleasantly pop-punky buzzsaw guitars. During an introductory cacophonous freak-out, Hendricks leaps around possessed, before the band surges into a full-blooded ‘Love Me’ cherry-topped with that skyrocketing chorus: “And you love me, yeah you love me/Just a little less”. If anything, after tonight everyone here loves them all that much more. Come back soon, Charly Bliss.
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