These New Puritans/Party Horse - The Leadmill, Sheffield - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

These New Puritans/Party Horse - The Leadmill, Sheffield

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

It's not a particularly big stage that awaits These New Puritans tonight. It's certainly not big enough for them to recreate the earth-shatteringly fearsome and diverse noises they produced on their second album, Hidden. However, you sense its size is just right for Sheffield's own Party Horse, an electro-pop duo who have gallantly stepped in at the last minute as a substitute for LoneLady, who, we are told, is stranded in Paris, a victim of the volcanic ash cloud currently wafting its way over from Iceland (although, really, if you have to be stranded anywhere, Paris would probably top a lot of people's lists).

Party Horse are all about DIY pop fun. Sporting gold catsuit and Allison Goldfrapp curly locks for her and skin-tight turquoise jeans and ironic blond mullet for him, they poke away at synths and bash out brash riffs with gleeful 'look at us' abandon. Songs like 'Chinese Takeaway', 'Laser Beam' and 'You Don't Have to Go to New York to Have a Good Time' are full of hooks provided by an unabashed plundering of pop's day-glo past. Try as they might, however, the audience just isn't buying it. This probably has something to do with the fact that the crowd in the Leadmill tonight are hear to enjoy (if that's the right word) some visceral, bludgeoning noise. They probably aren't big fans of daffy synth pop. But it's also something deeper. After a decade of bands rifling through the gaudier end of 70s and 80s pop, Party Horse just have nothing new to add. They're equal parts Goldfrapp and The Darkness and all their pop-stars-on-a-shoe-string posing and preening can't hide the emptiness at the heart of that concept. If this was 2001, Party Horse would be a refreshing sight. In 2010, they need to develop some depth and original ideas fast if they want to avoid the knacker's yard.

After Party Horse pack up and depart, the venue fills abruptly with dry ice. In fact there's soon so much fog that it's hard to be certain whether the shapes sloping onto the stage are actually These New Puritans or their roadies. Doubt is banished by the opening staccato horn bleats and doomy drum crashes of 'We Want War', sounding just as they do on Hidden. Understandably, TNP have found it difficult to properly do justice to all the disparate sounds on their recent album, but they've made an impressive stab at it. Tonight they never sound less than monumental, each pound of the drums and angry eruption of guitar noise slicing through the dry ice to physically assault the crowd. Singer, synth operator and guitarist Jack Barnett stalks the stage and occasionally writhes in the gloom. With his anonymous attire and closely cropped hair, he looks like the perfect anti-star to be delivering such uncompromising noise. It's like watching a demonically possessed Bez.

However, sometimes this determined unstarriness doesn't serve the band for the best. Jack's rather thin vocals remain almost inaudibly low in the mix throughout the gig and unfortunately this sometimes has the effect of emphasising the gaps in TNP's live sound. On 'Attack Music', for example, drummer George Barnett is left to virtually carry the song alone until an outbreak of bracing guitar noise from Jack leads the song into a sort of deranged glitterbeat stomp. Ultimately though, it would be mightily unfair to criticise TNP too much for what amounts to a quirk of their vaulting ambition. With Hidden, they created a work full of different, competing textures, teaming with experimentation. Recreating something that extreme, that complex would be too much for most bands to even contemplate, but tonight TNP pull the majority of it off with style and a ferocity of passion that's sadly all too rare.

Richard Morris

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These New Puritans/Party Horse - The Leadmill, Sheffield - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab
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  • 01/14/2010
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