Cards on the table – we’re not really here for headliners Comet Gain. In fact we’ve managed to go a couple of decades without really paying attention to them at all. Luckily David Feck’s indiepop perennials are a difficult band to dislike – it’s friendly stuff, from the tongue-in-cheek story of his “spiritual journey” Feck threads throughout the gig, to the spontaneous snippets from militant speeches played via a cassette player held up to the mic, and the peppering of well-fronted technical mishaps.
It makes for a likeable shambles, although one that’s frustratingly bloodless. Hefner did the same thing with more sharpness and were a better band for it. Love Without Lies, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever and ‘Sad Love’ And Other Short Stories are all fine, jangly anthems but it’s only with the closing Confessions Of A Daydream, with its garagey wig-out jam, that they really punched through to anyone but the faithful.
Floating in the middle of the gig are The Proper Ornaments. We’re not here for them either, but their mesmeric, shuffley, none-more-Velvet-Underground rock – featuring Veronica Falls‘ James Hoar – is worthy enough, especially on Now I Understand, which comes over like a shoegaze recut of Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl.
No, the real reason we’re here is right at the start of the show. Evans The Death have been away for a while; it’s been six months since their last gig and two years since their excellent self-titled debut. Ramping up, finally, for the release of a second album the still-preposterously young quartet are easing themselves back into the game with low key shows, and they’re noticeably ragged around the edges in places. The no pressure approach pays off though- they’re free to focus on new material, which is just as well because the batch of songs they showcase tonight are really very good indeed.
Some of the spikyness and the knowing post-punk of their debut has been toned down, replaced with an almost Phil Spector-ish ’60s pop feel. Idiot Button has a knowing, Burt Bacharach-esque drama and a melancholic, Ronettes rat-a-tat at its core – it’s really something, while Expect Delays could be ripped straight out of the Morrissey/Marr pop songbook, and Sledgehammer sounds like a proper ’90s indie-hit: there’s traces of long-forgotten Britpop band theAudience here but given a skuzzier make-under. No bad thing.
The band allow themselves some noisier fare too: there’s a welcome outing for oldies Telling Lies and I’m So Unclean, probably the closest thing they have to a ‘hit’, but it speaks to the confidence in their new material that they choose to close with an unknown newie with Intrinsic Grey, Singer Katherine Whitaker’s disdainful, Ice-Queen vocal facade cracking as she pleads with us that there’s “never been anyone else.” It’s as corking a closer as you could want. They might still be getting their sea legs back and girding their loins for the next phase, but with a fair wind and the right support 2015 might just be Evans The Death’s year.