Sunday, April 21, 2013

Live Review: BATS, Kraak Gallery, Manchester, 04/14/2013

My penchant for catchy post-hardcore and my passion for Dublin quintet BATS are both well documented, and once the two were combined in an intimate, raucous setting, the outcome was inevitable. The night began with a thundering twosome playing in the middle of the room surrounded by people, and yet my mind strayed and wandered as I explored the many fantastically cheesy craic puns which could be made with an Irish band headlining at a venue called the Kraak gallery. The frenetic immediacy of the opening band however immediately brought me back down to earth. Two piece post-rock bands are rarely capable of eliciting comparisons to And So I Watch You From Afar in their self-titled debut era, but Bearfoot Beware exceeded the sum of their parts through simple looping and sheer grit, and they provided the perfect platform for BATS to build on through heavily distorted guitars and berserk yet rhythmic drumming.

Unlike the majority of bands today who linger backstage and make the crowd wait for reasons best known to themselves, BATS meandered from the crowd to the stage having enjoyed the opening acts and a few fine beers. The 40 or so attendees gathered round the diminutive stage, creating the feeling of musical intimacy which only small shows can evoke. Launching headlong into “Stem Cells,” their live sound was every bit as bombastic and dense as their latest album The Sleep of Reason suggested it would be, and they wisely settled on the heavier cuts from both of their efforts to solidify the cacophonous theme for the evening. Nothing could really have prepared you for the hardcore onslaught that was “Thomas Midgley Jr,” however.
Opening with a tongue-in-cheek preface of the man in question, it highlighted the comically unfortunate life and times of the lead loving, Freon discovering inventor, who, quite fittingly, died because of yet another of his fine inventions. The distortion, reverb and gut-wrenching screams probably mirrored Midgley’s disdain for his string of failures, and it was only topped in terms of brutality by the apocalyptic “Heat Death,” which measured its anger on a different scale entirely.

Successful harmonising isn’t something one would immediately except from a post-hardcore band, and yet the tight beginning of “The Heat Death of The Universe” and the ending of “Bats Spelled Backwards Is Stab” were both delivered with all the tightness of a choir. The former built up through waves of well executed, intermittent screams, whilst the latter elicited a grin as the whole band got involved to deliver well-timed acapella “owws!” and “arghs!” towards the song’s conclusion. Words can barely do justice when describing a troop of possibly inebriated Irishmen pretending to be stabbed, but its timely delivery more than did the album version justice.

Choosing to avoid “Gamma Ray Burst” at the set’s finale was a surprise, but it was a niche that was filled snugly by the title track from the latest album, and in truth, it was wholly in keeping with the rest of the set. Continuing the humility they showed at the very beginning of the show, they calmly put down their instruments and took once more to the floor, completing a clamorous, humbling and refreshing evening.


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