Chvrches: Ruby Lounge, Manchester

Let me draw you a graph. This is the x axis and I’m going to call it ‘time’. Here is the y axis, which I shall label ‘frenzied, chin-dribbling excitement’. Hyped new bands suffer on this graph. The more the public froth at the ears at an exciting indie debutant, the more the band’s gigs fill up with atmosphere-damping hipster gawpers. Look at them. They stand in the mosh zone stroking their chin and nodding appreciatively. Some of us want to dance, but we can’t because they’re in the way.

Chvrches at the Ruby Lounge was no different. Here’s a red crayon showing the tour’s BBC Sound-fuelled anticipation, shooting up off the graph like a rocket. And here’s a brown crayon starting off low and falling off the bottom of the page to represent the minority of statuesque voyeurs and their polished chins. They talked over the mesmerising support act Conquering Animal Sound (think Björk fronting Múm but glitchier and with fewer squiggles above the letters). There was even a guy taking photos with an iPad, which was so distracting, half the crowd was plotting on deluging it in half-drunk pint glasses.

It wasn’t the crowd that Chvrches deserved: the poor things have barely started. Here is a trio that has released precious little music: the stomping ‘Lies’ channelling the power of Gary Numan in an army of synth hooks; the shimmering melancholy of ‘The Mother We Share’. Their first headline show, part of a lightning-quick stint across Britain, was a chance for them to show they could be more than two-hit wonders.

Chvrches despatch ‘Lies’ quickly and without much fuss before they reign in the energy for two slower-burning tracks. ‘If We Sink’ and ‘Lungs’ show they aren’t afraid play mid-tempo, despite some folky shouting in the former and punchy samples in the latter. Like Purity Ring, they allow space into their tracks. Lead singer Lauren looks so unsure; so delicate she could snap, but she knows exactly what she is doing (“that was a song about hate”) despite at one point forgetting her tambourine. But she’s not showy, so by the time ‘Now Is Not The Time’ floats slowly into the ether, we begin to wonder if they have an anthem to match ‘Lies’.

And then they unleash ‘Gun’. Never has ‘I will be your gun’ sounded so inviting as dramatic claps and a choppy Blade Runner bass explodes into a purely stadium pop chorus. Science/Visions blasts you with so much 1980s percussion, it’ll turn your watch Casio, while the drab singing in the verse of ‘Night Sky’ contrasts beautifully with a spine-tingling refrain (“I’m the night sky, I’m the fire in your eyes”). And as the crowd cheer for their new release Recover, in the space of four tracks Chvrches have wiped the floor with all that has gone before. They have arrived.

Keyboardist Martin takes the lead for penultimate track ‘Under The Tide’, although it feels like just a prelude for the note-perfect show-closing earworm ‘The Mother We Share’. With this kind of analogue synth power at their disposal – comparisons to The Knife and Prince are deserved despite the absence of their ‘I Would Die 4 U’ cover – and with at least two more huge anthems yet to be unleashed, Chvrches will get the crowd they deserve. And when it happens, I’ll film it with my iPad.

1 Comment

  • Antony says:

    This is a really honest well written review. The perspective of that one man in the crowd. I like it.

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