WOLF ALICE // JUST MUSTARD // LIVE REVIEW // THE TELEGRAPH BUILDING // BELFAST
A few years ago I read a review on the internet, infallible and zenith of all info that it is, of a Just Mustardshow. It read; ‘Just Mustard: Just Rubbish’, instantly I had to see this band. My thinking is that if something can illicit this definitive negative reaction in someone then it could very well illicit an equally positive one. The same cannot be said of the movie Cats (which I also went to see). Just Mustard however proved my theory. The Telegraph Office is now my third time seeing the band, the first being the Limelight a few weeks ago, the second being just a few nights ago in Dublin. I am a fan.
Under low blue light and with zero pomp or circumstance Just Mustard files onto the stage, they adopt the quintessential shoegaze persona on stage and antithesis of the normal ‘let’s open up the pit’ rock band. Normally it’s a pet hate of mine when a band don’t move during a set but it only serves to reinforce the delivery of their songs; dark, creepy and abrasive delivered in a deadpan manner with little crowd interaction. To be able to pull this off and still hold the crowd is no mean feat and a testament to the quality of the material and the band. Katie Ball’s vocals sound amazing floating in amongst the swathes of reverse reverb and fuzz of guitarists David Noonan and Mete Kalyon. Rob Clarke’s bass sounds massive and is the anchor that holds the songs together. Shane Maguire’s approach to the drums is a mix of sparse dance/trip-hop beats, devastating in their effect.
Songs from both records Heart Under; ‘Still’, ‘I Am You’, ‘Seed’, ‘Mirrors’ and Wednesday; ‘Curtains’ and ‘Deaf’ fill the cavernous Telegraph Office. Just Mustard is a unique band with their own unique sound, based around driving beats and bass layered with swells of abrasive guitar sounds that still hold melodies and hooks with a haunting vocal that seems pregnant with regret, desire, sadness and melon collie weaving itself through the songs. They’re easily one of the best bands to come out of Ireland in a long time, a must-see live.
And then…then begins the yodelling, the beck and call that pulls Wolf Aliceto the stage. They emerge to a rapture of applause and screams and move straight into ‘Smile’, the rumbling bass line shaking the foundations of ‘this big, weird creepy room’ as Theo later dubs the Telegraph Office. The crowd sing along with every word of ‘You’re a Germ’, the band visibly enjoying the crowd’s reaction as we all scream and count to 7 in unison. Three albums into their career Wolf Alice have a wealth of material to pull from and every song feels like it’s a single. The mark of a great band to me is a band that can play any kind of song and it still be quintessentially themselves. Wolf Alice moves through the jangle rock of ‘Formidable Cool’, complete with the crowd screaming along that line, to California-soaked ‘Delicious Things’ and ‘Lipstick on the Glass’ to the shoegaze-tinged ‘Planet Hunter’. This is done seamlessly and through the entire set, it feels like we’re being taken on a very deliberate journey, with many ups and downs, flavours and emotions. This is not just a band playing the greatest hits..ahem.
Ellie takes to the drum riser, hit with a spotlight and casting a dramatic silhouette for ‘Safe From Heartbreak’, it’s a stunning moment in the set, one of many that showcases what an excellent vocalist she is and it’s clear that on the newer material the band lean into this much more, allowing space for her voice to shine. Then we get to ‘Play the Greatest Hits’, it’s a whirlwind of distortion and energy with Ellie prowling the stage like a caged animal, pulling shapes and screaming ‘it isn’t loud enough. The song gets faster every time I see them play it. ‘Silk’ see’s Joel bring out the mallets for the drums, it’s haunting and beautiful and a personal favourite, my only criticism being, ironically, it isn’t loud enough. ‘Visons of a Life’ is a tour de force live, and acts as a microcosm for the set, moving from piece to piece, mood to mood. ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ is a grunge master class and has the crowd singing along, it’s the oldest track we get tonight but feels at home amongst the rest of the material. ‘No Hard Feelings’ see’s Joff pick up the bass and the band leave the stage leaving just him and Ellie, it’s a great moment and helps add to the poignancy of the track.
After a thunderous ‘Giant Peach’ the band leave the stage only to return to a wave of applause that seems to last as long as any of their songs. They’ve had the crowd in the palm of their hands for the whole show, Theo does most of the interacting with the crowd and seems to relish every minute, Ellie is quieter but does address the crowd at points. It’s such a diverse crowd which speaks to the universal appeal of the band. For the encore we get the stunning ‘Last Man on Earth’, vocal harmonies on point throughout and ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’. Last I saw them in Ulster Hall Ellie sat on the edge of the stage, the house lights came down and they hit the disco ball sending a thousand points of light all out across the Ulster Hall. It was a special moment. This time ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ has morphed into a huge anthem, the crowd raise their voice in unison again throughout the song. The Telegraph Office used to cover the news but I think we’ve witnessed history, no doubt going down as one of those shows that everyone will say they were at but weren’t. We shuffle out to the angelic tones of more yodelling. The goddamn yodelling.
Review: Michael Smyth
Photography: Mark McGrogan
Wolf Alice are ELLIE ROWSELL (vocals and guitar) JOFF ODDIE (guitar and vocals) THEO ELLIS (bass) and JOEL AMEY (drums and vocals). It has been a decade since the band began as a duo of Ellie and Joff, later expanding to a four-piece with Joel and Theo joining the group. Since then, the band have seen their 2015 debut album MY LOVE IS COOL soar to #2 on the UK charts; their sophomore album VISIONS OF A LIFE win the 2018 Hyundai Mercury Prize; and receive a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rock Performance. Wolf Alice are also one of a small handful of artists to be nominated for the Mercury Prize for each album they have released. Blue Weekend continued the band’s stretch of success by debuting at #1 on the UK charts on release and winning the Brit Award for Best Group earlier this year.