PINS / PEACE AND LOVE BARBERSHOP MUHAMMAD ALI / THE OTHER DRAMAS, 11TH FEBRUARY 2016, OXFORD BULLINGDON
The Other Dramas have got the ability to alternately intrigue and frustrate down to a very fine art. One minute they're gesturing optimistically in the direction of Courtney Barnett (the verse of set-opener 'Feeling Bad') or The Gossip (all of 'Say It', the title track of their new EP), or knocking out a surprisingly palatable Lily Allen pastiche ('Gonna Break My Heart'), and the next they're fobbing us off with wearisome balladry ('Dog') or a song about being abducted by aliens that, well, leaves me wanting to be abducted by aliens just to get out of earshot ('Noisy Star').
Getting out of earshot of Peace And Love Barbershop Muhammad Ali would be a real challenge - and not one I'd be remotely interested in taking up. As the principal half of Manc duo Brown Brogues, Mark Vernon established an extremely nice line in primitivist glam-garage stomp a la Thee Oh Sees, complete with rudimentary riffage and yelped vocals caked in delay/reverb. What sets his preposterously monikered new crew apart from his former outfit is quite simple: bassist Kim Thompson. With her shimmy, her black tasselled leather jacket and her half-brown, half-black afro, Thompson - an artist by day - looks like Diana Ross if she'd turned her back on Motown and instead started hanging out with fellow Detroiters The MC5 and The Stooges. Together, she and the cockily insouciant Vernon are a formidable pairing, and their band are phenomenally good.
Pity the poor headliners, who invited PALBMA along for the ride and are now staring in the face the very real prospect of being spectacularly upstaged. But PINS are made of sterner stuff these days, as is suggested by their ditching of the colourful C86 tweepop clobber of yore in favour of regulation black. If you ran into this girl gang in a dark alley these days, they'd be less likely to debate the merits of your favourite Belle & Sebastian song and more likely to hold a flick-knife to your throat.
The Bobby Gillespie-era Jesus & Mary Chain beat is still present and correct, as is the Shangri-Las vibe (see 'Dazed By You'), but there's generally a darker, harder edge now, one that's particularly pronounced in the live environment. The older material aired tonight only serves to throw into relief the significant strides they've made with second album Wild Nights (released on the esteemed Bella Union imprint), and with the tense post-punk of 'Oh Lord' in particular.
That they're on an upward curve is underlined by the fact that brand new song 'Trouble' is even better still, an instant hit featuring all five members chanting and fleshed out with keyboard drone courtesy of newest member Kyoko Swan. Much more of this and soon it won't just be eyeliner manufacturers who love them.
(This review first appeared in the March issue of Nightshift.)