HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! That’s right, despite us now being in February, this is the first MUTM blog post of the year, meaning I’ve had a criminally long six week break without any live music… unheard of for me!
Have to say though, first gig of the year was an absolute cracker, with me taking a midweek trip in to Manchester to catch the long awaited return of allusinlove (fka allusondrugs).
Opening up the night were Lincoln based 5-piece Carry the Crown. If you’ve been to Jimmy’s before, you’ll know it’s a pretty intimate venue with a tiny stage… if I tell you that the stage wasn’t big enough for this band, I’m not referring to their larger than life sound, I just mean that physically they barely fit! Musically they had a kind of noughties, teeny nu-metal sound combined with a bit of a boy band look that very much reminded me of Lost Prophets. This just made me feel old. Personally, the music wasn’t really my cup of tea, but definitely worth giving a shout to the lads for the effort they put in to warm up the crowd. Being first on at a midweek gig on a freezing cold January night was never going to be an easy ask. I felt most entertained when they engaged with the crowd more, singer Martin deciding to abandon the stage and perform amongst the crowd, with his band mates joining in a few times too, getting the crowd to singalong and even participate in a co-ordinated pogo towards the end. Bonus points for showmanship without a doubt.
Next up were Sly Antics, who claimed they were from Manchester, though their online bio says Yorkshire… sly indeed. This powerful two-piece were a really pleasant surprise. Usually ahead of a show like this I would have had a listen to the supporting acts in advance, but life’s been busy, so I went in to this show with no expectations around what I was going to get. Well, Sly Antics were great.
The easy (lazy) comparison would be with the Black Keys and Royal Blood, as all 2-piece guitar bands are the same really aren’t they… not. These guys definitely had that early Black Keys bluesy-ness about them, but there was an accompanying rock and roll swagger that really reminded me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Front man Sam Hudson has a great blues voice and some really soulful moments that reminded me a lot of Nathan Willet from Cold War Kids. There were tons of dirty guitar riffs, accompanied by some great blues licks and power drumming from Sam’s cousin Lee on the sticks. They also showed versatility, slipping in a new single, whose name escapes me, that was slowed down and chilled out.
My only complaint is that having been so excited by this live performance, I’ve checked out their recordings online, and have to admit to being a bit disappointed by the sanitised versions of the songs, sounding a little too polished and, for me, not quite managing to capture the spirit and energy of their live sound. Definitely a band I will keep on my radar though, and I see they’ve been added to the bill for a show I’m at in a few weeks, so I look forward to round 2.
Finally then to allusinlove. It’s almost two years since I’ve seen these guys play. At that point they were one of the busiest bands around and were gigging almost constantly. But they’ve taken somewhat of a hiatus, only re-emerging at the back end of last year with a new EP and a four night residency at the Brudenell Social Club in their native Leeds. I missed them, but am really glad they’re back.
During their break they’ve signed a record deal, with their debut album due for release later this year, as well as having a bit of a rebranding exercise, including of course a new name. I was really impressed with the new EP, seemingly adding some extra oomph to their sound, the rhythm section in particular really standing out, allowing the guitar to go off on its own little adventures.
This version 2.0 dynamic really came across in the live show, set opener ‘Full Circle’ being a particular powerful opener to proceedings. The new EP was played in full, with the slower paced, funky and soulful ‘Lover I Need I Friend’ being a particular highlight for me. You might not associate the style of the song with AUIL but it slotted into the set beautifully. There were a few new tracks thrown in too, but it was also great to hear old favourites. ‘Sunset Yellow’ is such a fun song, whilst ‘I’m Your Man’ seemed almost unrecognisable played in this new heavier style.
Penultimate song ‘All Good People’ is kind of a new old song, having emerged towards the end of the previous incarnation of the band, but it really could go on to be a massive anthem for the band with its glam rock licks. The set ended with a REALLY old song which I used to have knocking about on an old Soundcloud playlist, but the track has since been removed (in fact all the old AUOD published tracks have disappeared from digital platforms). Annoyingly I can’t remember it’s name, but always has me thinking frontman Jay is singing about “buying shit fags”.
So gotta say, I’m loving the new allusinlove. I find it hard to put a finger on why. I loved the old version too, but the added grunt they seem to have acquired seems to make them better. I had a really good chat with bassist Jemal after the show (kudos to him for remembering also chatting at a show in Preston back in 2016). He mentioned that working with a record producer had really helped them focus their songwriting and rather than worry about trying to add quirkiness to their songs, they’ve been encouraged to just concentrate on writing fundamentally good songs, with the quirky personality of the band just being allowed to naturally emerge out of that process rather than them thinking about it too hard. This really make sense.
Connor on drums and Jemal on bass seem to give everything a really solid and powerful backbone, allowing Drey on guitar to add a wizardesque psychedelic layer over the top, whilst Jay has always had a really strong voice.
This Manchester show was the first of their current tour, so keep an eye out as they’ll be coming to a venue near you soon. I highly recommend checking them out. I’m really looking forward to the release of the forth coming album and fingers crossed there’ll be chance to cross paths with the band during festival season too.