The Front Bottoms // Leeds Beckett Student Union // 26.11.16
Brian Sella isn’t the most famous person on stage at The Front Bottoms’ headlining show at Leeds Beckett Student Union. I’m looking directly at Lindsay Lohan, but she’s not meeting my eye – likely due to her being on an archaic TV set broadcasting 2004’s Mean Girls. Though the characters are going through the motions as always, they’re soundtracked by Sella warbling loosely strung together metaphors over the bouncing synth line of ‘Skeleton’ on stage right – he’s clearly revelling in the choice to outfit the union’s raised performance area with a sofa, lamp and aforementioned TV, bobbing his head to the rhythm of his own yells. This is as much a Front Bottoms show as ever – interspersed with the strangely mundane, breaking up the band’s signature punk-cum-anti folk sound with as many misleading loose ends as they can throw.
The Front Bottoms aren’t exactly known for a refined sound – Sella is hardly a conventional singer, and the band’s first few unsigned releases have a particular lo-fi tinge to them. With 2015’s Back On Top, however, the band went about as high-definition as their own constraints will allow them to; Sella’s vocal takes polished up, guitar tones took a turn for the clearer and tracks turned infinitely more pop. It’s not a bad progression, though, and rather a logical one – synth taking more of a forefront in tracks like ‘HELP’ and ‘The Plan (Fuck Jobs)’ does wonders for the band’s sound, and make the record inherently catchy. They mostly dig into that album for their set here, punctuating it with deeper cuts like ‘Jim Bogart’ and ‘Twelve Feet Deep’ – though they’re still shallow enough to elicit a powerful response from the crowd.
Towards the set’s end, everything lulls – bassist Tom Warren reads out a poem about hitting a deer in the road with a car, to unnerving effect. I’m told that each night on the tour featured a different piece – but I can’t say whether or not they make up a larger whole. What I can be confident in is the flow of the evening, as fast paced yet consistent as Sella’s intake of cold ones between songs. Things come to a head in the encore-of-sorts’ climax, with a rendition of ‘Maps’ from 2013’s Talon of the Hawk searing into the air. The Front Bottoms can be sure of one thing; they’ve lived up to their latest’s title, and are comfortable as hell in their stomping ground.