Glitches first appeared in these pages way back in 2013. Musically, politically and culturally, it’s fair to say we’ve come a long way since then – for better or for worse. Four years on, as they play their first and only show of the year in support of their sophomore record, Lost Language, you’d be forgiven for asking whether there’s still a place at the table for their brand of slick indie rock.
The comeback begins here, at Highbury’s Thousand Island. It’s the space formerly known as Upstairs at the Garage, and it’s what you’d call ‘intimate’, if you were in charge of promoting it. Usually I’m all for that – a little atmospheric sweat inhalation never hurt anyone – but I’m not sure that it was the best showcase for a group that often took aim at the vast and cinematic, and often found its mark.
Tonight’s show kicks off with “Linear A”, a short-and-sweet album opener that establishes the key components of Glitches’ sound. A powerful vocal cuts through a thick mesh of textures; noodling guitar, synth washes - the works, basically. The drums, big, unsubtle things, drive the tune home.
Next up, it’s “Warm Seas”, which showcases one unavoidable truth – these boys know how to write a chorus. An unashamedly funky rhythm section builds towards a clattering release – it’s by the book, but it works.
But as the night wears on, I find myself aching for a little light and shade. The vocal, while technically competent – impressive even – often finds itself stuck in the same quasi-operatic mode, sacrificing feel for sheer power. You get the distinct feeling that ‘anthemic’ is always the word of the day at Glitches HQ, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t feel quite right in a room this size on a frigid Wednesday night.
After all, these tunes might well have been written with the festival circuit in mind. Only I’m not sure if it’s this year’s. The woah-oh-oh chanting on “No Prisoners” and “Helicarnassus” belongs to a time when Foals ruled the Earth, and the delicate rhythm-work of “Full Genius” is deeply, deeply in debt to In Rainbows–era Radiohead.
That’s not to say there aren’t moments where Glitches really come into their own. “One” is a sultry change of tack mid-set, and closer “F O R E V E R” is a real feat of sonic world-building, where that domineering vocal finally comes under threat from the growling bassline and pounding floor-tom beat.
I can’t say whether Glitches will be coming to a stadium near you any time soon. What I can say is that their natural home is big, and sweeping, and full of people who can sing back those huge choruses verbatim, night after night. And whether you’re on the cutting edge or not, there’ll probably always be an audience for big, emotive songs like these.