Review by Peter Callaghan
So since I began this gig reviewing lark, I’ve heard certain names banded about the local music scene. These, I thought, must be the bands that have earned their stripes or whose brand of stuff was particularly appealing to the local music masses. This, in all honesty, usually puts me off. Anywhere the masses go, usually sends me running in the opposite direction. But, not long ago, I realised that in this business, I can’t afford to hold such judgements without actually listening to the music these bands were producing. So, I made my resolve to shake off my presumptions like a dog caught in the rain, and decided to check out the launch party for the new Troops of Mafeking EP “Fake Glamour”, at the Sugarmill.
First up were Faux Feet. They have a twee, indie rock sound and are pleasant to listen too. It’s not offensive and the heavier rock aspects work well with Mathews’ vocals. Faux Feet did a good job of opening this gig but heart sank a little for them as the audience were still slowly filtering in whilst they were playing. I think with the right atmosphere and right slot on a line up, Faux Feet would truly come alive as their sound would emanate immensely throughout the venue as they’ve definitely got that in them. But opening a gig is hard, especially when the crowd aren’t giving you anything back.
The Control are another band that I’ve heard the name of time and time again but not actually seen them live. So when they started up with an almost tropical indie sound (or maybe that was just the lead singers Hawaiian-esque shirt?) I thought “Oh, this isn’t going to be for me”. But once again, assumptions made a fool of me and I found myself smiling along to their enticing indie sound. I liked it, mainly because it’s not all just standard indie riffs but they’ve got some interesting dischorded, off-beat passages as well as lead singer Joseph Brennan Hulme being an excellent frontman, whose tourette-like antics on stage were simply fascinating. It must be mentioned that they did not have their regular line-up and instead had to mix it up a little, putting bass guitarist John Burgess on the drums and recruiting a friend to play bass. Overall, I enjoyed their set, especially their banter about “glamorising the monotony of working class life” because it’s almost strangely self-referencing of the Indie scene itself, since most bands write songs about making your Nan a brew or playing football with your mates and then eating pie and chips afterwards. That’s some non judgemental behaviour for you.
Anyway, with The Control done and dusted, it was time for the main event. Troops of Mafeking started with an almost stadium like entrance; the only thing it was lacking was the flashing search lights and sirens. The guitars roared with feedback as they announced themselves to the waiting audience and then... They exploded. I knew, from what I had been told, that their guitars weren’t the only thing that was electric on stage but I reckon that if you wired the Troops up to a generator that runs off the ambient energy they produce whilst playing, you could probably run every house in Stoke-on-Trent for weeks. I would probably classify them as stadium rock and their appeal is in having a good time, as many of their fans would testify; they play fast and loud and everyone in the ‘Mill loved it. They are an intense live experience and I particularly enjoyed their heavier songs the most as they really seemed to get that electric energy flowing at its peak rate. If this performance was anything to go by, their new EP “Fake Glamour” might blow up your CD players as the condensed electricity fuses the disc drive and surges the national grid... Or maybe not. I half expected them to collapse when they finished but instead, they delivered an encore with as much enthusiasm as when they first started with lead singer Samuel Woolley jumping into drummer Josh Jones’ lap, taking out the drum kit on the way.
On leaving, I felt genuinely knackered, and was half glad that my bus was an hour late because at least it gave me some time to catch my breath in the grimness of Hanley bus station. I can certainly see why these are the bands that people talk about in Stoke-on-Trent because they do put on a good show.