One of the great, yet-to-be-written books on modern music will have a title like ‘The Evolution of The Duo in Popular Music: 1970 – 2020’. The Seventies were all about Boy/Girl couples singing sugary love songs and ballads. The Eighties were characterised by moody synth-pop duos made up of ‘the one with charisma’ and ‘the other one’. The Nineties and Noughties were the era of ‘The Collaboration’ – usually a singer looking for a new direction, combining with the DJ/Producer of the moment.
However, there have always been outliers for whom the bog-standard singer, guitar, bass, drum combo is not the requisite set-up to create genuinely original, exciting, raucous rock music. John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett, The White Stripes, cleopatrick, Royal Blood and Sleaford Mods have lead the way, Southampton duo – The Vitrines could be the next tandem off the rank.
The Vitrines are Alex Donovan (vocals, guitar) and Billy Houghton (drums). They have an unrefined, pure, punk/post -punk sound defined by relentless, uncomplicated percussion. There are gnarly, fuzzy guitar riffs, all topped off with Donovan’s fey, Pete Shelley-like vocal delivery.
According to the band, the theme of You Give Me Chills is ‘possessiveness after a break-up…the reaction to seeing someone go out of their way to make amends when you’ve already moved on’. This is most highlighted by the lyrics of the songs chorus, ‘I don’t need you, like I did before; stop kicking in my door’. The Pete Shelley tone of Donovan’s vocals help to highlight the anxiety of the song’s protagonist. There’s a subtle vulnerability in there.
The song starts with some powerhouse drumming a-la Rat Scabies, where you feel everything is being hit, quickly and hard. There is a simple but infectious guitar riff that sounds like something that would not be out of place in an Elastica or Sleeper song – only on speed. There’s no room for fancy melodies, harmonies or intricate solos – Donovan’s guitar is already working overtime.
The Vitrines are making a big noise. Literally. You can hear it for yourself later in the year at The Joiners, Southampton – 24/9, Water Rats, London – 2/10 and Mother’s Ruin, Bristol – 8/10. Until then you can listen to You Give Me Chills from your usual provider.
Right, you’ll have to forgive me. I’ve got to go and research Peters and Lee and Milligan and Nesbitt for a book I’m working on.