Desperate Journalist name themselves after the occasion when The Cure, during a John Peel session, reworked their song Grinding Halt to be titled “Desperate Journalist In Ongoing Meaningful Review Situation” in celebration of Paul Morley’s dissection of their last album. Desperate Journalist attempts to come up with way of mentioning the band name without becoming seemingly trapped in an existential, self-referential loop of an introduction that is almost impossible to find a way out of.
Actually, the important word back there is probably meaningful. Because in a graceful, dignified, and not at all annoying way, Desperate Journalist have a marvellous sense of meaning it. You can see it in Jo Bevan’s face, eyes balled tightly, microphone chord wrapped around her own neck, belting out another soaring vocal.
Here, at the launch party for their debut album, there are quite a few of those soaring vocals. Bevan’s piercing voice jostles for prominence with glittering, glistening guitar lines, plucked from the neck with studious concentration by Rob Hardy, and some propellant interplay between Caz Hellbent (drums) and Simon Drowner (bass), thrusting songs forward with an impressive urgency.
It’s a heady, if not exactly revolutionary mix. But, point being, while there is a certain sense of nostalgia present in all of those things, of The Smiths in those arching tones and spiteful, bitter cries. A certain New (world) Order in the interplay of that backline, here they are combined and delivered with an unbridled passion and undeniable panache.
Broadly categorisable as post-punk, they are far more distinguishable as really grand, swoopingly ace post-punk. In full flight, they are spectacular. The opening Control plots a superb path between noisy punk verses and fiddly fretwork before bursting into a gloriously widescreen chorus. Happening repeats and even betters the trick, clattering onwards with rollercoaster abandon before once more taking flight, while Cristina is little short of barnstorming.
Even in these smallish confines they sound vast and dramatic, while delivering that in impressively concise packages. There’s a knack for taut and controlled builds, underpinned with Drowner’s often portentous basslines, and then, whoosh, off they go towards another epic conclusion.
They close out the evening with Kitten, an early single, which is less grandiose and more teeth-bared, bristling with real intensity. “Never apologise / never explain” Bevan chants as the song rattles around her, delivered once more with a fearsome sense of belief.
It is an undeniably impressive performance. Desperate Journalist delight desperate journalist, you might even say.