Well, this post was originally going to be me posting videos of the new songs that Grammatics played at their gigs in Leeds and York this week. However, due to unforeseen circumstances*, I’m going to have to resort to actually doing this whole journalism thing properly and describing them with words.
*The PA in Leeds being a bit crap, prompting Rory to kindly ask me to take the videos down. And also, me being a moron and charging my battery, but then forgetting to put it back in my camera for the York gig. Duuuh.
So, we were presented with five new songs by the band. Generally speaking, they’re heavier in sound than a lot of the tracks on their self-titled debut, and shy away from turning into sprawling epics a la ‘Polar Swelling’ or ‘Relentless Fours’ (fun Grammatics fact – Owen told me that these gigs are the first time in Grammatics’ history that they haven’t played ‘Relentless Fours’ during their set). In short, we’re looking at a punchier, harder-hitting version of the band – but that doesn’t mean they’re any less dynamic.’Stalinesque’ (bonus points for clever title) starts out with an infectious bassline and stop-start drumming, before a wiry guitar riff and dramatic cello stabs build the song into something with a great sense of urgency.
There are shades of older songs here too, of course, but they feel much darker and heavier – for example, ‘Mutant Reverb’ (working title?) sounds a bit like ‘Rosa Flood’s downbeat cousin, and another new song has an air of ‘Murderer’s beauty about it, but with a more melancholy feel overall. The heaviest of the new songs features a distinctive minor-key sound, with the cello adopting a sinister feel and and the bass just sounding plain dirty – at one point Owen even breaks out an almost metal-esque guitar riff that really hammers the tone home.
The last of the new songs is possibly my favourite. Entitled ‘Church Of The Great I Am’, Owen wryly described it as “us going R’n’B'” – and while he assured us he wasn’t joking, don’t fear that the band have gone all Beyonce on us. It’s definitely not a million miles away from a big pop ballad though with big, echoey drums and majestic, sweeping cello – Rory even swaps his bass for a synth and simulates hip-hop hi-hats with the world’s smallest triangle. But crucially, it’s earnest without being trite, and engaging rather than making you want to switch off. My only complaint? It perhaps ends a tad abruptly – it feels like it could quite happily go on for another 30 seconds or so. But perhaps that’s the point – I enjoyed the sprawling, yet measured excess of the band’s longer tracks as much as the next fan, but as Owen pointed out to me when I spoke to him after the York gig, they take up too big a chunk of the band’s set time. Playing ‘Relentless Fours’ every night cuts down a half hour set to about 5 or 6 songs. Which is fine when you’re starting out – better to have 6 fantastic songs than padding the set out with filler – but when you’re trying to showcase new material alongside the old, it doesn’t really work. All things considered though, after these two shows I’m looking forward to the prospect of a new Grammatics record more than ever.