It is positive in a time of austerity that The Exchange has made a success of a share offer towards the end of last year and is now a community-owned enterprise, putting on a comprehensive programme of up and coming bands from the Bristol area and beyond, such as tonight’s headliners Desperate Journalist.
‘[Oh, The Guilt’s]White Car goes for the jugular via measured pitch-shifted riffing that recalls Goo-era Sonic Youth.’
Oh, The Guilt share their name with a Nirvana song and are a Bristol-based post punk trio with alternating male and female guitarist/vocalists. The songs resound with refractions of chorus and reverb, recreating noise-guitar flavours with inflections of dream pop and shoegaze. Darkest Days, released towards the end of last year is an expansive two-chord voyage wrought over nearly eight minutes, while the appealing White Car goes for the jugular via measured pitch-shifted riffing that recalls Goo-era Sonic Youth.
‘She Makes War sits happily alongside Stateside influences such as Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly, the latter having previously collaborated with Kidd.’
Local favourite Laura Kidd aka She Makes War has been around the Bristol scene for a while as a self-contained cottage industry of song. Her persona is endearing and her songs enjoyable as she runs through a varied set, split between slower-paced confessionals such as Slow Puncture with its “friendly fire” references and the perhaps more satisfying grungier outlook of Devastate Me from last year’s album Brace For Impact. She Makes War sits happily alongside Stateside influences such as Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly, the latter having previously collaborated with Kidd.
On a night of three acts and quick turnarounds, Desperate Journalist head to the stage to Simple Minds’ Theme For Great Cities and stand impatient to unleash the first chords of Murmuration, the opener to their new album In Search of the Miraculous. It starts off big before being cranked up even further. The band have arrived already well warmed up and it’s easy for the audience to settle into such a confident performance.
‘[Desperate Journalist’s] Jo Bevan’s sardonic delivery of Why Are You So Boring? is a treat.’
Tonight’s tracks concentrate on the best known of Desperate Journalist’s material from the latest release and interspersed with songs from breakthrough sophomore release Grow Up. Singer Jo Bevan’s sardonic delivery of Why Are You So Boring? is a treat – and a reminder of the band’s more playful side which was conspicuously absent in the more serious concept and tone of their current long player.
“[Jo Bevan’s] eyes fix into the middle distance as she decants impossibly cavernous vocals from her waif frame with perfect pitch and control.”
It is almost impossible to draw your gaze away from Bevan. She is physically striking with her shock of platinum blonde hair and restless posing, often coiled up in her bright orange extended mic lead. Her presence recalls more Anja Huwe than Siouxsie Sioux; a haunting intensity pervading her performance. The frontwoman’s eyes fix into the middle distance as she decants impossibly cavernous vocals from her waif frame with perfect pitch and control. Bevan is frustrated all evening with difficulties with the on-stage sound, although tonight’s crowd would be oblivious were it not for her protestations.
Any concerns that Rob Hardy might not totally nail the picked solo which heralds the opening of Jonatan are of course immediately dispelled. Alternating between tools of the indie guitarist trade (12-string to Rickenbacker) Hardy’s performance is spellbinding, his effortless playing reminiscent of a full-pomp Johnny Marr (including occasional absent-minded lapses into the head back swaying style).
“The heights of the last two albums are easily recaptured, even surpassed, in the live arena.”
The addition of journeywoman guitarist Charley Stone to the live line-up is a masterstroke; providing the go-ahead to liberate Hardy to attempt every manner of guitar stratospheric. It’s a mesmeric combination and ensures that the heights of the last two albums are easily recaptured, even surpassed, in the live arena.
‘Cristina stands later in the set as an isolated reminder of the start of the story; the only song on show tonight from the band’s debut. It has however stood the test of time well.’
The twin powers of Caz Helbert’s drumming and Simon Drowner’s bass are best exemplified in the menacing rumbles which galvanise the dark undercurrent of Hollow and the 6/4 time goth-stomp chorus of Ocean Wave. There is only limited interaction with the crowd, although the short silences that descend prior to the start of each song feel comfortable and add to the anticipation. Cristina stands later in the set as an isolated reminder of the start of the story; the only song on show tonight from the band’s debut. It has however stood the test of time well.
Bevan introduces recent single Satellite as an usually happy Desperate Journalist song. Its euphoric washes and another skyscraping Rob Hardy solo bring the evening proper to a close. There is still time for a brief return as a four piece to hurtle through Resolution, three minutes flat of faultless post-millennial indie.
The band are evidently at a creative peak in terms of song writing and performance and its been a privilege for those present at The Exchange to witness it. There is space for another British indie band to step up. Desperate Journalist are this year serving notice that they fancy their chances.
Desperate Journalist Set List:
Why Are You So Boring?
To Be Forgotten, Be Kind
Lacking In Your Love
Ocean Wave, Girl of the Houses