Gig Review: Outfit – Start The Bus, Bristol – Monday 27th January 2014

Review by Scott Hammond –

Since forming in January 2011 while living together in a Merseyside party mansion owned by an eccentric lawyer, Liverpudilan quintet Outfit have emerged as sparkling purveyors of danceable, guitar-tinged electronica. Extolled across the board and receiving high praise from the likes of The Guardian, Time Out and NME, their 2013 debut album ‘Performance’ was unwavering evidence that Outfit are genuine contenders to wrest the crown away from the likes of Hot Chip as rulers of British synth-pop.

A note yet to be struck, frontman Andrew Hunt welcomes the audience and thanks them for “coming out on a wet Monday night in January” before garrulous scouse affability is replaced by the thundering drum beat intro to ‘House on Fire’. The song provides an apposite blue-print of the Outfit sound: slow build-ups, echoing guitars and dance-floor ready grooves combined with anthemic choruses.

‘Drakes’ from their Debut EP is the first manifestation of a duality that has been talked about in press circles when contemplating the band’s music; introduced by Hunt as ‘About love and loss,’ the song highlights the dichotomy between euphoric sound and pensive subject matter. The funky snap of Nick Hunt’s guitar layered on top of dreamy soundscape keyboards sits well within the wistful ponderings of his brother’s lyrics and another accessible chorus melds a curious marriage of downbeat exhilaration.

Drummer David Berger and bassist Christopher Hutchinson provide steady, fundamental rhythms on top of which their three band mates add the electronic textures in the form of reverb heavy vocals, ominous keyboard and organ figures along with shrill, echoing guitar work from both Hunt brothers. Aside from the instruments, the band capture the sonic complexity of their recorded work by utilising samples throughout; Debut single ‘Two Islands’ features a long cacophonous drone of processed feedback before ringing guitar chords and a relentless, high pitched keyboard figure lead us to the dispirited, isolationist lyrics of “I don’t know anyone else in here.”

While some of Outfit’s soundscapes and backing vocals are slightly reminiscent of Joe Goddard, they show touches of a more guitar driven sound that serves as a nod to the indie heritage of their home city; ‘Spraypaint’ contains a riff slightly redolent of Radiohead’s ‘My Iron Lung’ and an attractively melodic five note guitar figure, while ‘Want What’s Best,’ with its inculcative, automaton chorus and duel guitars bears a faint resemblance to Franz Ferdinand.

Keyboardist Thomas Gorton occasionally shares lead vocalist duties as with ‘Nothing Big’, a song he introduces as about “Those moments when nothing in the world matters” and, just to leaven the mood somewhat, he adds that it is also “About friends.”

Before ‘Dashing For Passing’, frontman Hunt asks the audience, predominantly young and ample in size for the intimacy of such a venue, “Anyone here who bought the EP?” A brief, bashful silence follows but is ended by a sheepishly unconvincing claim near the back. “You are lying aren’t you? That sounded like a lie,” Hunt responds in assured accusation before conceding that “I should really trust you more. After all, you came out.” This highlights Hunt’s technique of audience relations; he maintains an insouciantly confident but ultimately polite cordiality throughout.

The set ends with ‘Elephant Days’, a catchy but atmospherically moody track featuring the reverb drenched scream of Nick Hunt’s guitar, an instrument not always prominent enough in the mix throughout, and extra percussion from brother Andrew to add to Berger’s beat. A huge crescendo of sound leads us to the song’s final chorus and Outfit’s work is done.

The most intriguing thing about Outfit’s material is the aforementioned proximity of the sombre introspection of their themes and the subtly exhilarating twists that their music often takes. They create something both haunting and hedonistic resulting in a sort of euphoric melancholia. Like how comedy and tragedy can often exist together as one and the same, Outfit show that music, as a reflection of life, can be simultaneously sombre and celebratory.

It’s become a little deep; a corny epilogue to leaven things: Outfit are a quality live music experience and well worth trying on for size.

Find out more about Outfit at their website here.