Live Review: Gold Class & Mere Women @ Newtown Social Club, 27/05/2016
I’ve watched the ascent of both Mere Women and Gold Class over the past year or so with both curious enthusiasm and a flag hoisted high. Both group’s stars have risen considerably over that time - compounding the impact of strong releases with a heavy gigging schedule and some fortuitous international support slots to garner both a sizable hum and buzz.
Stark songwriting, a strong sense of identity and a visceral and kinetic approach to the live setting are a dual hallmark of their still divergent approaches, and their recent split 7'' has gathered them both plaudits, significant airplay and brought them cycling in tandem to the Newtown Social Club on a frigid Friday to perform to a comfortably sold out house.
Local cats Mere Women stride out first, the recent(ish) addition of a bass player adding further dynamic heft to their sound as they initially struggle visibly with the onstage monitor mix. By the time they roll into 'Our Town' however, they are straddling the space with a swagger. What follows is another display of why Mere Women are a band you’d do well to keep an eye on. The effects-laden guitars sit thick and soupy atop drums that are both tumbling and stop start staccato, with trebly edges cresting out of the haze to lend form and punctuation to the tunes.
Drawing mostly from the Your Town LP, new track 'Numb' from the split 7” carries much more weight live than it does cruising out of radio speakers, kicking with a deeper conviction in this setting. Amy Wilson’s vocals are delivered hunched over, her keys with a fraught intensity that is etched into her face as it contorts whilst spitting syllables. It forms a palpable contrast to the smile that flits across her features as Mere Women take their leave, the Janus face of performance and pause in stark relief.
Expectation filters through the crowd during changeover as we contemplate ‘Would Morrissey have been angrier if he were born a ginger?’. Perhaps in Gold Class frontman Adam Curley, we have our answer - his sonorous timbre filling the room as the band erupts with a brash and brazen reading of album favourite 'Bite Down'. Bass cab gremlins threaten to derail the show almost immediately, as their claws elicit an unwelcome buzz. Broken signal blues wrinkle a bassist’s brow, but cables are sufficiently reprimanded and the band is off again, transforming the wiry guitars and dry aesthetic of the It’s You LP into a fizzing, dizzying assault that growls and scrapes along with a viciousness that they clearly delight in.
Bass knits tight rhythmic oblongs to sit with off kilter beats that simultaneously propel and sit behind the surge. The guitar throws waves and washes of warm abrasion. 'Furlong' is another highlight, spiralling as it does into its lonely coda of "Let it go". A mid-set, mid-song soliloquy drenched in blood red beams brings a taut veneer of silence to the room - limbs stop twitching and ears snap to attention.
Legs aren’t shackled still for long though, because 'Life as a Gun' is insistent. The most immediate shell in their salvo and still a toe in the ribs, it flays skin tonight. It segues, shuddering into a rarely aired 'Shingles' - a fragile finale’ who’s sparse keys allow room for a plaintive ache to resonate unadorned.
This is vital music. Miss it at your peril.