Thursday, January 17, 2019

Marching to the beat of their own drum


Jemma Roper's most recent release was entitled The Thumping Heart Of Night, but there's precious little to get punters' pulses racing this evening. It doesn't help that her performance has all the passion and enthusiasm of someone wearily fulfilling a contractual obligation. Every now and again, however, there's the spark of something interesting, a hint that she and her band might at some point in the future prove capable of picking up where Howling Bells left off in giving indie rock a subtly gothic makeover.

Spare Snare were once named the 46th best Scottish band by The List - the very definition of being damned with faint praise. It's an accolade that the lo-fi outfit from Dundee no doubt cherished, in that it recognised their qualities but didn't threaten to compromise their status as a cult concern.

After more than 25 years of existence - most of those well beneath the radar of pretty much everyone except John Peel - this is the band's first ever appearance in Wales. They arrive fresh from a festival at which vocalist Jan Burnett estimates only five per cent of the crowd had ever heard of them and in support of last year's LP Sounds, a selection of songs spanning their whole lifespan that were committed to tape anew by none other than Steve Albini.

The stomp of 'Action Hero' provides as punchy an opening to the set as it does to the album (The Delgados do The Wedding Present), and 'I Am God', 'Bugs' and 'Smile, It's Sugar' all follow in a similar vein. Debut single 'Super Slinky' is dedicated to one fan with whom Burnett has been corresponding for the last couple of decades but whom he's only just met tonight. (That's the thing with cult concerns: to most they mean nothing, but to some they mean absolutely everything.)

However, it's the band's defiant anthem 'We Are The Snare' that really resonates. Burnett's lyrical claims that "We don't do interaction" and "We don't do social skills" are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, undermined by the way that he roams among the audience smiling and shaking hands. But the lines "We don't do fashion trends" and "We don't do what you want" ring true, encapsulating Spare Snare's determination to remain true to themselves and the admirable bloodymindedness that has seen them through the last quarter of a century.

(An edited version of this review appeared on the Buzz website.)

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