These days, even some of indie rock’s most prolific artists exude a performance aura that shows at best, mild disinterest, and at worst, utter contempt for each member of the band. Their gigs might get marks for technical brilliance, but they are devoid of warmth. So seeing a ‘textbook “indie rock” band who enjoy what they’re doing and God forbid, actually like each other, is a breath of fresh air.
That’s where Pete And The Pirates come in.
Preceded by The Traps, whose sound coincidentally – previous paragraph considered – echoes The Strokes, the cheery chappies from Reading took the second date of their tour to the Hare And Hounds, Birmingham. Having swelled from a three-piece to a five-piece since the last time around, the gig was a chance to showcase second album, One Thousand Pictures.
Little Death’s Lost In The Woods proves to be an accurate marker for the heavier new material, which sees the band beef out their tightly arranged indie pop. It’s rather like Pixies to a military march, with engorged riffs and lyrics with a sniff of menace. The friendly, self-effacing Thomas Sanders declares, “I’ve tried to steal all of your thoughts”, then retreats back into more familiar territory with platitudes aimed at the crowd.
In truth, the band has been missed since their 2008 debut. Quality Steve Lamaq indie bands with smiling dispositions feel few and far between at the moment, as most have wandered across the border into synth territory, or have faded into musical history. Knots serves as a reminder of the gap Pete And The Pirates fill.
Despite the darker tendencies, the new material doesn’t feel like a real departure from what made them so appealing in the first place. Can’t Fish’s psychedelic keyboards and gravelly guitars replace the jangling riffs, but it keeps the chanting harmonies and deeply sing-along chorus which make it instantly memorable.
Indeed, in their very most elementary parts, the five have stuck to the things Pete And The Pirates do best. The simple storytelling is still a common thread, as are the melancholic melodies, somehow delivered with knowing smiles. On the night, Eyes As Black As Tar fits well with new track, Motorbike, carrying tales of love behind the bike shed in a charming and very effectively simplistic Peter and Jane structure. Cold Black Kitty is an inside-out nursery rhyme with all the outer appearance of innocence, but the inner suspicion that there’s a seedier subject afoot. There’s also a tangible appreciation throughout for the band’s obvious enjoyment and unfaltering tight preciseness.
If there is a criticism, it’s aimed at their choice of tracks that rely on a steady, bop-inducing pace throughout. But when Mr Understanding and the insanely catchy new single, United, greet the ears with pitch perfect harmonies and lyrics that drag the vocal chords and feet out of their chairs, it’s obvious that over-sophistication wouldn’t just be unnecessary; it’d be at odds with the very things that make Pete And The Pirates a current cornerstone of textbook indie rock.