Review: Lusts – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham April 16 2018

lusts

You might not believe this, but I’ve only been in here five minutes, and already I’m experiencing a disquieting sense of near-Proustian déjà vu.

Standing next to me, swigging merrily away from his own can of Tennents Super, is a scruffy, smelly and slightly aggressive dipsomaniac who not only clearly hasn’t paid to get in, but has quite obviously no idea who Lusts are (in truth, he doesn’t even seem to know the lyrics to the million-selling Radiohead songs the engineer’s playing over the PA either, although that doesn’t stop him from attempting to sing along with them in his loudest brogue) Worse still, he’s taken a liking to me, repeatedly giving me the “nuff respect” sign whilst asking me if I’m “alright”: 27-odd years ago, when the rock, indie and blues venues of Brum acted as the playground of my callow youth, this was always a bad sign. The most worrying aspect of all this, however, is the possibility that it might actually be the same bloke (or at least one of them) preserved and pickled forever in some timeless alcoholic aspic while I slowly collapse into corpulent middle age: thankfully, he gets ejected by the guvnor (ouch) before I have occasion to find out, but as far as evocatively surreal starts to evenings go, it’s definitely up there…

The sad thing is, there evidently aren’t that many other people round here who know who Lusts are either – at least not on a chilly Monday evening in April, where I number one of less than twenty attendees in the Hare’s smaller room. In one respect, as the duo’s hometown of Leicester is a mere 30 miles up the road, this is rather surprising: on the other hand, perhaps their Midlands following has turned its back on them following their recent relocation/decampment to South-East London, and besides, one should always heed well the pitfalls of being a little too indie in one’s modus operandi, their soon-to-be-finished sophomore album having been slowly leaked onto the internet without even the slightest of fanfares. Obviously, brothers Andy and James Stone are equally wary of the pitfalls of hyping one’s band too much, lest they suffer the ignoble fate of many a five-minute guitar-pop wonder: yet at the same time, it wouldn’t hurt to let a few more people know you’re on tour, especially with new songs as self-effacingly brilliant as Ten Years and Heavy Thoughts in your armoury.

Three years on from their debut, the siblings have already soaked up several more influences and fed them through their mean, moody Midland mangle. For much of the new material, ‘the same only different’ would be an ideal description – though the slow, piano-led Heartbeat, dripping with azure washes of Talk Talk, Tears For Fears and the Blue Nile, is probably the furthest from their usual ‘motorik’ attack they’ve thus far strayed, and as a result, indicative of a diverse palate their debut seemed at times eager to avoid. That said, several selections from that 2015 release have already become near-classics: granted, they may still sound like the result of some extreme genetic crossbreeding experiment ‘twixt OMD, the Bunnymen, the Comsat Angels, the House Of Love, New Order and the Pet Shop Boys, but Illuminations, Sometimes and Temptation – each marked by shafts of chiming quasi-Goth guitar, drifting synth and relentlessly tight drumming, with classically detached post-punk vocals – are the sort of instantly memorable, catchy and (dare I say?) ‘hooky’ songs most groups their age would kill for, and as such still feature semi-regularly on my home playlist. More importantly, they’re eminently likeable chaps, and in replacing the more po-faced excesses of modern-day alternative music with a well-needed sense of humour (“my brother bought me a book of Rimbaud poetry for my birthday, but it was all in bloody French”, “Well, I’ll take it back then” etc) immediately endear themselves to all those present.

After a decade-plus of stupid-namery, dullard balladry and skinny-trousered hat-twattery, the last seven or eight years has finally seen some semblance of class, swagger and, dare I say it sex, return to British indie rock: whether it’s simply down to the fabled 20-year gap enabling lads and lasses to dig (and dig out) their parents’ record collections for inspiration, or something more indefinable, is unclear, but the likes of Eagulls, Sulk, Savages, Joy Formidable, Cabbage, Spectres, Temples and (in Canada) Preoccupations have arguably revitalised their genre in a way their 00s predecessors were seemingly incapable of, and Lusts stand right in the centre of that vanguard. If they continue to develop as steadily as this, they’ve every hope of blossoming into a truly great band: all they need is to write that one defining tune – their very own Killing Moon, Atmosphere or Christine, if you will, whilst simultaneously crystallising the essence of their own trademark, and sooner or later, they’ll have the potential to fill not only the big room next door but several larger venues. Seeing as they evidently don’t go in for that much self-promotion, I’ll happily help them in my own way by advising you all to grab album no 2, upon its eventual release, with both hands: to paraphrase the late David Bowie himself (and if you can’t trust Dave, then who can you trust?) “take my tip”. As for our over-friendly neighbourhood drunkard: your loss, matey.

DARIUS DREWE