On November 5th, as fireworks exploded in the sky and the MTV EMAs continued to prove their complete irrelevance by awarding Tokyo Hotel the ‘Best Group’ award, a rock act of a far more genuine, primal kind took to the stage in Leeds. I’m talking about the band Huw Stephens introduced as “the best new rock band in the world” (and in my opinion that’s not a hyperbolic statement), Pulled Apart By Horses.
The gig itself was slightly unconventional, taking place at Eiger Studios, a new rehearsal room/recording studio on the outskirts of Leeds, which had been converted into a venue for the evening. And as the gig was organised by Xbox Reverb, there were plenty of video games on offer to while away the time between bands, including the chance to embarrass yourself in public by playing Guitar Hero 5.
However, the music was the main draw tonight, with Napoleon III opening the line-up of local acts – and despite being a one-man band, he’s an engaging performer. His music is a bizarre mashup of looped vocals, synths, guitars, toy instruments and more besides – and with so much going on it’s to his credit that it works more often than not. Next up were Sky Larkin, a band who’ve earned well-deserved praise for their debut album The Golden Spike, which was released early on this year. For me, this performance was a real reminder of just how good they actually are. Nestor is an absolute machine on the drums, and singer/guitarist Katie is in possession of both a wonderful voice and an endearing cuteness – she’s the kind of girl you’d happily take home to meet your Mum. As well as rattling through tracks from their album, they also premier a new song – it’s the first time they’ve ever played it live, so they ask for the cameras to be turned off so they don’t get freaked out. It’s not a big departure from their previous material, but it still sounds brilliant, so why fix what isn’t broken?
Finally, Pulled Apart By Horses prove that they bring the rock with a raucous set, blasting through fan favourites like ‘Meat Balloon’ and ‘The Crapsons’ as well as previewing tracks from their forthcoming album (due in early 2010 apparently). While some might sneer that the band aren’t doing anything particularly nuanced or innovative, it doesn’t matter one bit because they are still a hell of a lot of fun – raw, powerful and energetic songs mix with a stage presence that combines reckless abandon and wilful irreverence. The band throw themselves around the stage like their lives depend on it, and guitarist James is up to his usual speaker climbing antics, even swinging from a ceiling beam at one point – wryly quipping “thanks for the support” to the fans directly below him afterwards. And despite confessing a love for gaming, they also aren’t afraid to have a dig at the show’s corporate sponsors. “This is how much money Xbox have,” says lead singer Tom, holding up a setlist that’s been hastily scrawled on a paper plate. It’s the songs on that setlist that matter, with filthy riff after filthy riff mixed with guttural howls and big, dumb, grin-inducing chorus hooks – a formula that is perfectly encapsulated on set-closer ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’. With the moshpit in full force and the crowd screaming along with Tom as he howls out the song’s coda of “Ultimate power! Maximum life!” this is all the evidence you need to prove that Pulled Apart By Horses are one of the most exciting live bands around right now. Their current support slot with Biffy Clyro is well deserved – and here’s hoping they’ll go on to bigger things. But failing that, there’ll always be a hell of a lot of love for them in Leeds.