After last week's cathedral adventure, Sound Control is a rather more run-of-the-mill experience. A well-maintained, nicely-acousticked venue, gothic ceilings notwithstanding. Note to self: stop going all architectural in gig reviews. Second note to self: stop arriving for gigs so damn early.
The first band up, Golden Glow, attracts only a very small audience. I know nothing about them, but suspect that the lead singer knows my friend Stephen, as I think I've seen him out and about before. I missed the first song of their short set whilst at the bar. The rest is listenable indie pop. They have a nice, chiming, chorus-y guitar sound in parts, but their music could have been made any time in the last ten or more years, and is starting to date a bit. Despite this, they have a couple of nicer songs which passed the time.
My ears pricked up when I saw The Switch's kit being set up: two keyboard benches, synths, decks, and a guitar. The Switch turn out to be a very pleasant surprise. Three men and a female singer took to the stage, and the noise commenced. Swirls of vaguely threatening electronic noise, performed partly on some sort of controller that looked like a Wii remote, layered with distorted guitar and delicate vocals. For the second song, the guitar came to the fore, and the band channelled the sounds of Manchester in 1991, Bristol in 1994 and somewhere else entirely all at once. The fourth song (I think) of their set was more of a straight-up dance number, with pounding beats and a more euphoric vocal, whose lyrics I have forgotten, but were something positive. The last number brought the sound back downbeat, with the bass and beats combining with guitar jags in a fitting crescendo. One to watch, I think.
The room still wasn't really full for Dum Dum Girls, although numbers had swelled. As the Girls are a bit of a hot topic at the moment, I had expected the Manchester hipsters to be out in force. The venue's over-18 policy may have deterred some of the scenesters, however.
Looking the part in brief black outfits and vampy makeup, Dee Dee, Bambi, Sandy and Jules tune up their instruments and launched straight into their set. They started with a slower number, and I was instantly impressed with Dee Dee's vocal, which is sweet and low. Their playing is tight, and their sound lives up to their "blissed out buzzsaw" tag.
The next number was an upbeat one, Catholicked I think (still useless with song titles. Note to self: take notebook next time). The Girls's three-part girl-group harmonies were sweet, and the guitar sound both choppy and blissful. Despite the change in tempo, the singing remains melodic. This remains so throughout the set, although the mix isn't quite right towards the middle of the set.
This was remedied by the time Bhang Bhang and Jail La La arrived. Bhang Bhang in particular is very lovely, all harmonies and scuzzy yet controlled guitar riffing. Jail La La caused a wave of energetic but good-natured dancing to erupt at the front of the stage. The Girls on the stage remained calm; their demeanour is cool and collected, with only the occasional hip sway from Dee Dee or flourish from drummer Sandy. Dee Dee thanks the audience between songs in her cute California accent.
After My Baby Is Better Than You (?), the set came to an end all too quickly. The crowd called out for more, and was obliged with a one-song encore, whose title I have unsurprisingly forgotten. It was a high-energy number with some great "ooh"s from Jules and Bambi. After that, they were gone.
Walking home with tinnitus ears, I thought about how so often, bands sacrifice melody and vocal polish for energy, and how Dum Dum Girls manage to avoid this trap. Their harmony-smeared noise-pop is both tuneful and attitude-filled.