Sextile, Hey Bulldog, Eyesore & The Jinx, Castle Hotel, Manchester 24/01/2018

A seemingly innocuous location, the back room of a small public house, atop a hardwood stage not more than inches high- intimacy defined.

Los Angeles post-punk garage-rock outfit Sextile, showcasing their new album Albeit Living, thrive in this environment. Their sound attuned to densely-packed smoky backrooms rather than the golden Californian skies of their hometown, with fans within arm’s reach, the cold January air turned into stifling heat from sheer force of bodies.

First band of the night are Eyesore & The Jinx, an upstart three-man from Liverpool who offer a mixture of punk, garage rock, psychedelic and indie- often in the same song, as the fluid time-and-tempo changes almost border on math-rock at times. Singer/bassist Josh Miller’s loping, fuzzed-out bass providing steady ground for the somewhat schizophrenic guitar style- alternately delicate and crystalline, and a frenzy of punk downstrokes- while everything is held together and given forward momentum by the powerhouse drumming.

Eyesore are firmly in the darker, more raucous end of post-punk, although the dub-infused “Waste” could, within reason, fit fairly comfortably on Public Image Ltd’s debut album.

The band’s final song of the set, “Senseless“, starting off with fragile-sounding spiralling guitar and shuffled drums, slowly but surely disintegrated into a feedback-looping double-time mess, but importantly, the group’s sense of rhythm and melody remain.

Hey Bulldog, another trio, hit the stage and immediately fire into an incendiary set. The Manchester three-piece are closer in spirit to stoner rock trendsetters Kyuss and Sleep, thick, heavy rock riffs underlaid with grooving, driving rhythm.

Guitarist Rob Manton is blessed with enough musical talent to actually justify his level of showmanship as he howls his way through the band’s material- the centrepiece being “No Future, Part 2“, a hazy Krautrock odyssey utilising motorik beats courtesy of drummer Ben Howarth-Lees and hypnotic synthetic drones, which gradually build in intensity to a great wave of release. New single “A.L. Lupo“, by contrast, is back to basics with it’s Sabbath-esque riffs, heavy with distortion and flanging, perfect for a blistering desert freeway- a temperature that the room was earnestly trying to match at this point. Hey Bulldog are an outfit to watch out for, their stock is only going to rise in 2018.

It may have been because of the heat (or possibly the the cooling methods of choice), but the sold-out crowd was reaching a fervour by the time Sextile made it to the stage, dedicating their set to the legendary Mark E Smith. Dressed in leather jackets and boots, Sextile look like a gang of street punks from a Grindhouse picture, and they have the right music to match their aesthetic- a primal sludge of surf, Cramps-esque rockabilly and blasts of monophonic synthesisers, the type that Martin Rev and Alan Vega would be proud of.

There is a marked difference in Sextile’s studio recordings to their live shows- while the album show elements of darker, industrial post-punk, Killing Joke and Sisters Of Mercy haunt the recordings but live, Sextile is all chaotic energy as singer Brady Keehn shrieks and squeals like a reincarnated Lux Interior, accompanied by his bandmates firing on all cylinders as they race through their set of sub-3-minute bursts of surf rock from hell- only the monolithic keyboard drones and processed drums bridge the gap between the styles, while the occasional splash of Morricone reverb on the guitars open the otherwise claustrophobic sound up a little.

Even in the face of some technical difficulties, the stage monitors proved to be slightly problematic, Sextile blasted through undeterred, the manic energy of the band was mirrored by the crowd, the seamy, exhilarating underbelly of the last frontier of the American West brought to a Manchester backroom. Catch them while you can.

Words and photos by Liam Moody.

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