High Hazels: The Great Gatsby, Sheffield

It’s funny how one band can take a cue from another group and run with it, whilst another can be totally paralysed by the weight of their influences. And so it is tonight; just as High Hazels, clearly a band in the first throes of their relationship with each other, used the work of Alex Turner as a springboard to more eclectic material, 10Take are completely trapped by it. Like a wheel spinning in the evening’s substantial snowfall.

To say that 10Take have a small debt to the Arctic Monkeys would be like saying Bernie Madoff owes a quid or two. Matt Longden copies Turner’s exact vocal mannerisms; that crooned scoop up to the note, the deliberate overemphasis on certain vowel sounds. Although it’s Cal Ward that wears his guitar at armpit level.

Just as I’m trying to put the Arctics comparisons to one side, they start a song with offbeat guitar chords. Y’know, like on ‘A Certain Romance’? Sure enough, Longden goes on to sing ‘Was this genuine romance?’, and I’m beginning to think that they have not one original crochet between them. If they have aspirations above the pub circuit, then they must cast their musical net wider.

However, the last song provides more promise. More dynamic than the other material, quiet choruses and all, with those pregnant pauses that make your stomach lurch, and guitars melded together to create something more potent. It’s green shoots alright, and you never know, they could be a much brighter prospect in six months time.

‘We’re the ‘igh ‘azels’ says James Leesley as he bounds over to the mic. Suddenly there’s a swell of new arrivals; their curiosity perhaps piqued by airplay on Lamacq and Gideon Coe’s shows. The last time they were here it was their first gig, but they show no signs of apprehension this time. Indeed, there’s an assuredness on display that belies their tender years.

As the opening chords of ‘I’ll See You Right’ ring out, one of my companions says that it takes her back to her prom night. She’s American, so she’s allowed to say stuff like that. With a dreamy, woozy, almost 50’s/60’s sound, High Hazels are a band not afraid of looking back to look forward – ‘not to fall through trapdoors of time’ – as they put it. His voice is yearning and heartfelt; real homespun charm under his shaggy mop.

Undeniably it’s a charismatic sound, if not overly unique.

But it’s not just Leesley who impresses, Brylcreem’d bassist Paul Barlow moves up and down the fretboard without getting in the way, whilst the drummer and guitarist occasionally pull it right back where necessary. It’s an instinctive shift and does them credit.

However, it’s not until the folk-tinged penultimate song, Five Weirs, in their short set, that I feel that they are really breaking new ground. Beginning with some deft, almost Harry Nillson-esque fingerpicked acoustic guitar, Leesley is joined only by very spare lead lines. It is a much more psychedelic offering than what they have shown before and a fascinating change of tack.

But the question that lingers is whether the High Hazel hype came too soon, or whether they can use the momentum to go on to bigger and better things.

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