Review by Kevin McGough – Photographs by Alex Meadows
If you’re late arriving tonight you may be forgiven for thinking that you’ve actually stumbled upon some kind of baggy worm-hole at the back of Start the Bus and been transported to the Hacienda in the early nineties, so heavy is the influence of Madchester on this evening’s proceedings. From the main support, Towns, to the headliners, SULK, the shoegaze, early Britpop feel is here in full force – so much so that you can almost smell the Hooch.
This is the first night of SULK’s UK tour, supporting the recent release of their debut album ‘Graceless’, and current single “The Big Blue”.
Originally from Harrogate but now based in London, the 5-piece has come a long way already and hope to go even further in the next few months.
After a build-up of feedback and effects which could easily provide the soundtrack to a 1950s UFO B-movie, the band emerge onto the stage amidst a cloud of swirling dry ice. Kicking straight into double header of “Sleeping Beauty” and former free download “Flowers”, showcasing a collection of songs that have spent years being refined, played live and refined once more in previous bands. “Flowers” in particular has that distinctive catchy-jangly guitar sound and structure that would sit comfortably with any of its 90’s peers.
The tempo is then brought down with “The Big Blue”, which feels like a reflective ballad and shows a different side. “I am drifting on your time” chimes the lead vocal, taking the listener away on an otherworldly trip through emotional heartache.
A cross between Horrors bassist Rhys Webb and Tim Burgess, lead singer Jon Sutcliffe clearly has a cocky streak, but with an almost admiral sense of self-belief; his style is sure to induce delight and dislike in equal measure.
He also never loses sight of his commercial focus as he cheekily interjects at this moment: “No one knows the words so we’re gonna sell a lot of albums tonight.”
A stomping, rousing track follows with “Marian Shrine” which takes us back to the urgent, in your face style of the first couple of tracks. This one will definitely be appreciated, like the band and album in general, by fans of classic Britpop and early 90’s guitar bands, recalling The Charlatans, Suede and indeed the Stone Roses all in one go.
Drawing on the back end of their album the next song, “Wishes”, gives us more of what we’ve seen before – strong drums and bass lines, virtuoso guitars, and perhaps even more a hint at ‘baggy’ than previously seen, especially in the vocals. This is also the high point of crowd interaction too with the masses finally bobbing along in unison.
‘We’ve been SULK’ states Sutcliffe as the final chords of the closer ring out and he and his band mates exit stage right. It brings the curtain down somewhat abruptly but it seems somehow appropriate given their low-key approach tonight.
SULK clearly wear their influences unashamedly on their mod-styled sleeves – the selection of Ed Buller as their producer, who has formerly worked with Suede and Pulp, is certainly testament to that. And while they may not be uniquely groundbreaking, their debut marks a solid arrival onto the indie-pop scene. Indeed while they may not be the “Second Coming” there is certainly enough here to suggest they may be one of the “Beautiful Ones” in the future.
‘Graceless’ and “The Big Blue” are out now through Perfect Sound Forever. For more information go to: www.sulktheband.com
Find more of Alex Meadows’ photos at www.alex-meadows.com. Here’s a few more of his shots from the night: