Manchester invaded London last week when the Stone Roses headlined Finsbury Park, with Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr in support. However, any headlines about the Mancunians conquering the capital had to be scrapped when the much-hyped gigs failed to sell out. Indeed, Monitors scribe Nicholas Burman managed to stroll up on the day (well, with a gammy knee and a bottle of rum stuffed down his jeans it was probably more of a hobble) and grab a ticket from a tout for fifteen quid less than the selling price. And while the headliners’ set managed to make up for a dire Marr performance, it was local boy John Lydon and his well-drilled PiL who were widely deemed to have given the day’s best performance.
Perhaps, just perhaps, we’re beginning to see the shadow of the Roses, Smiths, Joy Division/New Order, Happy Mondays and Oasis slowly start to slip away over the Manchester skyline. Granted, Shane Meadows’ ‘Made of Stone’ documentary means that Ian Brown and the boys are still hard to avoid, but maybe this time it’ll represent a curtain finally being drawn rather than yet another round of Mancunian mythologising over a flat bottle of tepid nostalgia. Surely this particular vintage has got to run dry soon?
And maybe that’d be a good thing for the city itself. That shadow has proved impossible to escape for many bands, with comparisons to the city’s favourite forebears the unwanted symptom many have suffered – with only Elbow really managing to avoid that fate. Yet right now there are a bunch of bands bubbling up who are more than capable of blazing their own path, such as G R E A T W A V E S, Money and this week’s selection, PINS.
Formed when frontwoman Faith Holgate grew tired of being the token female in a succession of lads’ bands (“they wanted to have a girl in their band but didn’t want them to have any opinions or write any music,” is what she told The Quietus) and struck out to find like-minded women to play with, the band have built up a real head of steam over the last year. Having released their first single themselves (on cassette, less an attempt to earn hipster DIY cred than simply not being able to afford to cut a vinyl), Bella Union quickly offered to put out their next record. With a title Prince would be proud of, the ‘LuvU4Lyf’ EP only increased the hype, and you imagine the label will have a fight on their hands if they want to put out the album too.
While lazy gender-centric comparisons to Savages have been inevitable (and only got louder after PINS supported the band in the bizarre confines of Sways Records’ Fuhrer Bunker last year), PINS are a sleeker and more restrained proposition, while revelling in similarly dark tones. “I think we all have an understanding of what we want to do with a song, without necessarily having to communicate it,” is how ex-drummer Lara Williams put it, “we naturally go to the same place.”
The ‘LuvU4Lyf’ EP was an inviting brochure. Led by a love song that felt more like a confrontation, it made for a convincing statement too. ‘Say To Me’ exhibited their love for a descending chord progression and casually tossed in a bit of surf too – although more like the scum washed up on Morecombe Beach than some idyllic bay in Hawaii – while the lyrics were full of self-assured dominance: “I wait for you to surround me – now astound me,” was Holgate’s demand. Crikey.
The there was ‘Little Sting’, a clashing, clanking number that revolved around an anguished, wailing guitar, with so much reverb on the vocals that Holgate’s voice sounded like it was drifting up from a Salford sewer. The formula developed on the EP was clearly a winner: a vocal line sticking between dangerously narrow parameters and propulsive floor tom drumming driving them on, creating a simmering, steaming sound that seemed forever primed to explode.
New single ‘Stay True’ stays, well, true to that recipe. Despite an unconventional song structure, billowing atmosphere and oddly lagging drums, everything is condensed into a mouth-watering whole, a bit like mixing the dregs of every booze bottle in your kitchen into a delicious jug of miscreant activity. While we’d prefer not to fall into the trap of comparing PINS to another all-female band, there’s a definite whiff of Sleater-Kinney here, and if they can match that band’s prolific early intensity then their debut album will be a treat. We recommend you attempt to pin them down at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival next month…