Tonight’s gig at the Brudenell Social Club carries two sides of the same coin; on one, we’ve got Joyce Manor, newly outfitted with their late 2016 release Cody – a record that carries on with the band’s jangle-punk pop sensibility whilst adding darker and longer strokes to it, culminating in a finished piece that punches its mood upwards whilst still seeming serious as hell. On the other, we’ve got Martha – Durham’s indie pop darlings, packing about as many hooks into their songs as Joyce Manor whilst adding a Los Campesinos-esque twee edge to their short numbers. In any case, short songs and energetic sets are to be expected tonight, and the venue is entirely sold out – it’s Joyce Manor’s first trip over to the UK in a couple years, and the crowd has the energy to meet them.
I’m at this show alone, so left entirely to focus on Martha’s set – it’s an effortless flurry of power pop, dotted with tracks from last year’s Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart. Song transitions are smooth and sparkled with Cribs-inspired riffs – the band are especially adept with slight stops, punctuating their countless hooks with glottal pauses. ‘Goldman’s Detective Agency’ is a particular peak in the set – the song’s chorus is timeless, covering the concept of anarchist Emma Goldman as a detective going after corrupt politicans. It’s abstract, but brilliant in it’s execution.
By the time Joyce Manor take the stage, it seems incredulous that the crowd has any more to give; the room up to this point’s been a lilting swamp of bodies and cracking voices, heating up at a sprinting pace. It’s a credit to the California punks that they only amp things up more, bursting onto the stage with ‘Heart Tattoo’ from 2014’s Never Hungover Again. Things slide into more recent territory – ‘Fake ID’ and ‘Eighteen’ follow soon after, fitting in perfectly with the band’s older catalogue. Frontman Barry Johnson is in high spirits, possibly hammered, shouting out to the crowd in occasional breaks between the band’s brief performances. And understandably so – the mood in the room is through the roof, and powerful enough to make gigging alone a pleasant experience.
One thing that delights me in particular is the amount of material from the band’s self-titled debut present – that record grabs me in a way that the others don’t, and tracks like ‘Derailed’, ‘Orange Julius’, ‘Constant Headache’ and ‘Beach Community’ leave a considerable mark. ‘Constant Headache’ is a cornerstone of Joyce Manor’s set, and for good reason; clocking in at just over 3 minutes long, it’s one of their longer songs, but still has a ridiculous impact, with the room swimming with emotion during its performance.
The set seems like it’s over almost as soon as it’s begun: the beauty of a 2 band lineup with spectacularly short songs. Although I wasn’t really buying into Martha before the set, I’m left with a newfound appreciation for their energy and breezy songwriting – it’s the UK’s perfect response to Joyce Manor’s overflowing power, and one I hope to witness again.By Jowan Mead