Huddersfield has its music moments, but it can’t really be described to be packed full of top gig experiences (as wonderfully grungy and varied as the Parish bar is). I was thus excited to hear that not only was I scheduled to see our very own local guys Able’s Army launch their lively new EP God Won’t Let Me Stop, Newcastle’s image weavers Twist Helix were going to be the main support for the evening. Given the openers were the spiky DIY new wave funsters FADS, it was difficult to think of a more diverse evening.
I get the impression that FADS arrived late for their slot so the sound check was hurried and the first couple of songs of their set were a little lost and hesitant. Thankfully the guys (OK 1 lass and 2 guys) soon got into their stride and gave a good account of themselves with some observational lyrics including a song incorporating 1980’s shell suits as a theme (sorry, I was always too cool for shiny plastic clothing) and reference to dodgy Halifax nightclubs (ditto). I’ve seen a few fun bands over the years (including The Feelies and Half Man Half Biscuit back in the day) and it invariably gives the evening a good vibe. Given the band have only been gigging for a month there is the potential for much much more.
Twist Helix are a band where I’ve seen their name bandied around but I have to confess I have confused with a band called Twisted Helix. Ha, no wonder I always thought they had an incredibly diverse sound – two bands…. doh. As a dyslexic kid, I see the front of a word and think I know the end of it. Twist Helix themselves made reference to the common confusion to their name. I’m guessing it must be frustrating after a little while.
Having given Twist Helix’s last album Ouseburn a few plays recently, and loving that mix of electronic, guitar, drums and huge voice, it still didn’t prepare me for the massiveness of the real event. The Northern Quarter in Huddersfield is but a couple of room sizes (with a bit of a WTF height differential to the floor level meaning the bar is up a series of steps), but here I immediately felt like I was watching the band in a 20 acre field. Immense and spacey are the words for Twist Helix. While the recorded Twist Helix is a huge deep pool, live they sound magnificent with sweeping rhythm of synth, drum and guitar with the soaring pure vocals of Bea Garcia pouring oil all over those deep troubled waters.
The set was as the band described, in honour of Able’s Army EP launch, their “party set” and indeed they seemed somewhat surprised to see no small number of folks strut their stuff at the front of the stage. Huddersfield doesn’t have that much opportunity to dance, but to give completely straight credit to Twist Helix they produced a banging set where the music set was pretty flawless. I always particularly notice rubbish drumming and there were absolutely no grumbles from me here.
Twist Helix came across as a very thoughtful band, one of the tracks highlighted Pulse led to an intro which referred to the plight of marginal music venues being pushed out to gentrification, and where it feels the music is silenced. As someone who lives in a total musical world (if there’s not physical music, there’s still something thundering in my head), I totally understood what they meant. Supporting live music is more vital now than it’s ever been.
I was also taken by lead singer Bea and her exotic mix of accent; Newcastle meets Spain I understand. Moving onto Able’s Army, I don’t think there is anything more exotic in this band beyond perhaps a hint of Lancashire mixed with that Yorkshire accent, and George’s smoldering looks and muscle flexing in charge of the sticks. Able’s Army are a band that does exactly what it says on the tin; gutsy, ballsy, hard and rocking. You just know this is a hard working band deeply into their indie blues and who are a class act. I detected a few nerves into the few days lead up to the EP launch night and it was good that the venue was pretty rammed, and even more important that the audience were well up for the evening and Able’s Army’s brand of heavy.
Able’s Army kicked off with a deliciously raw, loose but controlled version of God Won’t Let Me Stop. From here the shared vocal responsibility of James and Mike gave the band’s tracks an extra sense of differential and the band fair flew through their set. In addition to the 5 new tracks on the EP, I spotted their earlier singles also given an airing. I particularly thought Brewery Tour was blistering and it was clear the guys were enjoying their well deserved time under the spotlight, as were we the punters. The intro “this song is about when you are a baby and can’t walk” just had to lead to the hard rocking track Crawl and another burst of folk onto the dance floor.
The Able’s Army set came to a close with the EP track that is probably destined to carve the biggest niche into Able’s Army’s headboard, The Sober Side of Tipsy. The song encapsulates all that is great about Able’s Army, an instinctive sense for a banging tune, a strong vocal and solid music, and it was a bright end to a great evening.
I don’t mind saying I’m a proud owner of the CD EP (even if it is a few years since even I actually played a CD).