Hey Sholay, Best Friends and The Sweet Nothings: The Harley, Sheffield

Well they’ve shifted the pinball table, which is kind of them. With a undernourished room filling up by the second, there’s a slight tension as the emptiness meets its first taste of movement. Just like pinball, there’s a fidgeting glimmer in the Harley tonight that forecasts neon lights and additive chimes. The acts in fact couldn’t be more colourful musically. Once more, the PA’s got its 50s surf-rock out in places, nicely heralding all the glamourous bastards rolling through the door. There’s a half-done atmosphere, and that sense of being on the brink of something ratchets up the excitement.

First act on the bill, The Sweet Nothings this swaggering Rolling Stones thing while dressed as Pavement. They’re ‘feeling fragile, feeling fragile, feeling fragile’. Birmingham’s shit apparently. They also have a nice side-line (front-line?) in The Jam-ish politico-punk come the second half. Brilliantly, this side owes more to Bill Bailey than Billy Bragg. Songs include ‘She’s An Accountant’, ‘Subterranean Mosley Blues’ and ‘Love, Peace and International Socialism’, a real clusterfuck of comedy and resentment. Has there been a greater love lyric than ‘Tear down the Daily Mail’? You know when a band ties your tubes and castrates your logic? Well done Sweet Nothings, you’ve pulled.

Now I didn’t enjoy Best Friends nearly as much, but not because of their music per se. It was classic reverb-laden slacker-pop with Telecasters/headbands/Stratocasters/Beanies. All three guys bop relentlessly and the drummer is his own one man mosh-pit. It’s so loud that no one can hear the banter between songs as nature intended. Even a broken bass doesn’t stop the party (thanks Sweet Nothings for lending your funny looking Danelectro!). The only worry is that Best Friends are clearly accomplished writers, but they need more than that to overtake the lo-fi/garage revival pack.

Now onto Hey Sholay. As a home-grown band  with a new album out, EVERYONE goes ape-shit, and many have been watching them tear up BBC 6Music down at the Crucible earlier that afternoon. The set has its strengths and weaknesses. The Good – Massive tunes prepped for radio play and fan-baiting, communal shit; Massive sound with enormous depth, and a band committed to recreating the début’s intricacies. The Bad – the band don’t have much of a presence on stage except for turning on the arpeggiator and hunching over keyboards. At one point, a wonky effects box irritates the frontman visibly, as a lot of the group’s careful soundscape is lost without the technology present and correct. Texture and complex arranging are central to Hey Sholay’s beauty, coupled with those irrepressible choruses and sing-a-long melodies. That isn’t a criticism of the music, rather that their live act feels like a genuflection to studio version rather than an independent expression.

On the upside, completely recreating their studio sound means Hey Sholay’s distinctive art-rock can be shifted into interesting tones and rhythmical structures with great subtlety, viz. the rushing space of ‘My Blood’ moving into the bubbling ‘The Bears The Clocks The Bees’ without losing luscious momentum. As a live band, Hey Sholay’s approach confirm the precise artifice under the bonnet on each track. While their stage show mightn’t be propelled on spontaneity, the song-writing itself is pure perfectionist popcraft, heartfelt and universally resonant. All in all, they deliver an euphoric end to a talented and eclectic line-up.