These New Puritans
The Hare and Hounds
2nd February 2010
A hurried 9pm taxi ride to Kings Heath is a welcome surprise as opposed to another quiet night in Edgbaston on what could be any other Tuesday night. Bundling into The Hare and Hounds however defies expectations as the regulars scarcely notice an out of breath gig-goer scurry past.
Managing to dodge the perils of the stairs, it soon becomes clear why it is so quiet downstairs as Room 1 is absolutely packed with a diverse crowd. In fact the one thing that all these people have in common is that they are all staring intently towards the stage as many appear to be curious types having heard all about this throwaway indie band who came out of nowhere with an incredible second album; no, it’s not The Horrors. There’s no support band tonight as Trailer Trash Tracy’s pulled out leaving Superstore DJs to command the floor who relish the opportunity with effortless confidence.
A brief encounter with promoter extraordinaire and mastermind behind Birmingham Promoters, Carlo Solazzo, all but tells us that These New Puritans aren’t in need of any support act, but all the same it’s a bit of a shame that a local band couldn’t have jumped into such a tasty slot last minute.
The room is so full that only the first few rows seem to notice that four people are on stage and by the time Sophie Sleigh-Johnson and Thomas Hein begin to fire out samples and start to articulate the throbbing brass stabs of ‘We Want War,’ expectation is running high.
This swirling of samples in the dark creates a tense and spikey ambiance that instantly sucks everyone in which just makes the first hits on the drums by George Barnett even more earth shattering. The sound tonight seems to be particularly huge and in retrospect many attendees instantly remarked on how huge the drums sounded – this proves to be an integral part of TNP’s set tonight as sludgy sawtooth lines, pounding loops dominate the next forty minutes. It’s the sound of titans marching across mountains and causes twice the damage on tonight’s audience. This is incredible to try and take in as the room shakes and people can do nothing more except simply stand there, mouths aghast and eyes rolling in a religious trance as frontman George Barnett sermons from the middle of the stage.
Sadly, this effect wears off after about four songs and you start to think this might not actually be the most incredible thing ever. Gauging the reaction of several other members of the crowd seems to suggest that the feeling is starting to spread though as people start to get fidgety and start to expect something a little more special – but from our perspective there simply isn’t any room to tack on a lead guitar or a little keyboard ditty as TNPs’ seem to box themselves into a corner with their brilliantly difficult, angular and dark sound.
The quality is still extremely high and considering how much is going on it’s nothing short of a miracle that the Southend-on-Sea quartet can keep it as tight as they do as they are nothing short of perfect. So in short it seems to us like a Catch 22: a cute, upbeat song at this point, while providing some light relief, would be too obvious an attempt to break up the set and would obviously stick two fingers up to the first half that has worked so hard at building the atmosphere that pervades through the whole set.
Towards the end the band disappear amongst the smoke that has been pouring out through the entire set and through a blue fog Barnett shouts, ‘We’re invisible!’ It is a rare flash of personality from the quiet and brooding indie prodigy and something that is sadly too infrequent – his rhythmic vocal delivery adds very little to the overall performance and is simply lost in the sea of tribal drums, loop bleeping and synth noodling.
This is of course just a predictable symptom of such a huge amount of hype that TNP can easily live up to – their massive strengths lay in their monumental togetherness and their huge sound that sucks everything into it like a blissfully heavy black hole. It just appears at the moment that the quartet are simply pushing too much of a good thing, but it isn’t difficult to understand why they can make a whole set out of their mighty soundscapes as it is utterly heart stopping.
After getting back downstairs there are countless people stood outside debating the set, some people have a similar idea to this humble blog, whereas many others think the whole thing is sublime. Arguments aside, it’s massively uplifting to see a music venue buzzing with interested and active people old and young and is another one of Birmingham Promoter’s achievements over such a short period of time. Where we can all moan about less and less people going to gigs and independent record stores and ultimately supporting their local music scene, tonight has proved that there is a huge glut of enthusiastic people out there ready to be blown away.