Live Music + Gig Reviews

Coves @ The Victoria, London

6 April 2016



“Can you turn these red lights down?” asks Coves’ front woman Beck Wood. “I hate them. More, more…no, not that dark!” – it’s a throw away comment at the start of the band’s album launch show, but it turns out to a neat job at describing tonight’s show.

The album they’re launching, Peel, is their second, released on 1965 Records. It’s a mongrel of a record; a wall of gloomy shoegaze with layers of industrial effects, punctured with more upbeat melodies and rock n roll swagger. Just as things start to get really dark, Wood’s anger and despair reaching a tipping point, they throw something new at it. More, more…no, not that dark.

It’s a strong follow-up to its 2014 predecessor, Soft Friday, which saw comparisons drawn with the likes of Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, Spiritualised, and even Lana Del Ray. Producer Cam Blackwood (London Grammar, George Ezra) forged it out of the duo’s home recordings and the result is a bolder, more focussed collection, all dirty guitars and moody vocals, but with a real sense of direction.

Tonight they’ve bulked out, adding another couple of members, but they still look to recordings and samples to add the quirks that pepper their records. Wood’s band mate, John Ridgard is on guitar tonight, and is an absorbing watch, but it’s Wood who commands the stage. She’s one of those singers who does far more than that; she’s a performer, who takes on the entire song. In-between giggling with band mates and friends in the audience, she’s absorbed in her set, and each song is entirely believable; at times it’s hard to witness. She clenches her hand over her heart, thrusts her arms in the air, drops her head in apparent despair and eyeballs the audience, accusingly. She’s a whirling, one-woman play, and the music completely plays to this. Peel’s first single, Stormy, gives her plenty of scope for dramatics. Her vocal flits over a snarling, garage backing, as she bleakly tells us: “You see nothing but thunder in my stormy eyes.”

Elsewhere, Cadavalier and I Don’t Care are brattish, sultry tracks that could be lifted from an early Garbage album, and See Me Love Me, with its inescapably catchy, whistling intro gets the crowd swaying along to Wood’s pleading chorus.

They’ve spent much of the last couple of years between album releases on the road, supporting everyone from St Vincent to The Raveonettes – and they’ve got a slot opening for The Pixies on the way. But with a show, and album, of this strength, their own time in the spotlight shouldn’t be far away.

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More on Coves
Coves @ Brixton Academy, London
Coves @ The Victoria, London
Coves – Peel
Coves – Soft Friday
Coves @ Birthdays, London