SACRED PAWS + SPINNING COIN + NEUROTIC FICTION | LIVE REVIEW
Undertone, Cardiff, Sun 19 Feb
With the fifth annual Wales Goes Pop! festival less than two months away, promoters The Joy Collective and All My Friends have helpfully laid on a mouthwatering appetiser. All three bands on tonight’s bill will appear at the Gate over the Easter weekend. So, what can we look forward to in April?
First up are Neurotic Fiction, who, as you might expect, are both bookish and wired. The trio are at their best when sacrificing some of their customary jangle for speed and spikiness, as when shouting “POP MUSIC!” with increasing urgency over an almost hardcore drumbeat and on fantastic new song Collateral, which is indicative of a band on an upward trajectory. The closing cover of Canadian punks The Diodes’ Tired Of Waking Up Tired, while not unwelcome, is nevertheless a crutch they’ll very soon be able to do without.
Spinning Coin’s appeal lies largely in the dynamic between vocalists/guitarists Sean Armstrong and Jack Mellin. The former’s drowsy shrug-of-the-shoulders indie-pop (think Pavement, DIIV and Ultimate Painting) and quavering Wave Pictures-esque vocals (see Raining On Hope Street) are continually alternated with the latter’s more direct, urgent and belligerent contributions. Stephen Pastel loves them enough to have signed them to his Geographic label, but I’m less certain – more slanted than enchanted.
The headliners also enjoy the patronage of Glaswegian music royalty, in the form of Mogwai and their Rock Action imprint, but in Sacred Paws’ case the appeal is both instant and blindingly obvious. Rachel Aggs and Eilidh Rodgers offer a tantalising glimpse of an alternative universe in which post-punk has become synonymous not with Joy Division but with The Slits – not with pallid, lugubrious, black-clad, narrow-minded boys but with colour, joyousness, femininity and an openness to musical styles beyond the confines of Western tradition. Aggs’ nimble guitar work and Rodgers’ inventive rhythms take influence from African highlife, while their interweaving vocals draw in C86 indie and playful riot grrrl.
Aggs, also a member of Trash Kit and Shopping, hops animatedly from one foot to another, shaking her explosive mop, confessing to feeling small on stage and inviting us to dance. No such invitation is necessary – especially when the set reaches a frenzied climax with superb recent singles Everyday and Strike A Match and encore Vince. Amid the gloom of 2017, Sacred Paws are a beacon of positivity, a most welcome escapist pleasure. Appetite for Wales Goes Pop! duly whetted, then.
words BEN WOOLHEAD