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Alvvays, FAMY, Gengahr & Blaenavon - Transgressive @ Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club 30/10/14

04 November 2014, 16:30 | Written by Harry Fletcher

Ten years ago Tim Dellow and Toby L, just 19 at the time, launched Transgressive from their bedrooms. Over the ensuing decade they signed and worked with the likes of Young Knives, Iron and Wine, Two Door Cinema Club, Mystery Jets and flagship act Foals. Tonight the much-admired label commemorates ten years at the fore of independent music by showcasing five new additions to their stellar cast.

First up are Mancunians Spring King. Energetic and boisterous, their sound sees a Ramones-like urgency matched with a rough pop sensibility. Later on in the set a sparse crowd are treated to a performance from the sax-playing dad of one of the band members; a welcome change in dynamic in a collection of promising, brash songs.

With five bands on the bill and birthday revelry in the air, the show has the feel of a mini-festival about it: The venue is split over two floors, and after Spring King finish we file upstairs like festivalgoers shuffling from tent to tent for Blaenavon, a sickeningly young three piece. All just 17, their set is mostly slow burning and melodic, but at their strident best the band adopt a lithe noughties indie sound – early Bombay Bicycle Club, The Maccabees and label mates Foals can all be heard in their set closer "Prague".

Down the stairs again this time for Gengahr - a band to ignore at your peril. Their first single "Powder", released earlier this year, recalls Unknown Mortal Orchestra, while its brilliant b-side "Bathed In Light" smacks of Tame Impala. Capricious and quirky, the band presents a psych-ier sound that the other acts on show tonight. It’s is a charismatic blend of stoner rock and Shins-like melodic inflections, all with a kaleidoscopic sonic palette: Keep an eye out.

The place is filling up ready for the headline act. There’s another set to get through before then though. FAMY are next with their brand of grand, histrionic indie. Pining vocals underpin a surprisingly resounding set: Live they're a more resounding prospect than their early releases suggest. "Friend’s Home" is bold and dramatic, but the slightly directionless yearning grows a little wearing before too long. The crowd are getting a tad restless for Alvvays, but the band manage to pull back their attentions with set closer "Ava", a lavish slow burner that arcs and swells before crashing to a sonorous conclusion.

Part of headliners Alvvays’ appeal is their knack for tucking saturnine themes into their breezy pop. The band take the stage and launch into the sun-washed, yet insidious "Next of Kin", which sees Molly Rankin cheerily sing about drowning her boyfriend: “I left my love in the river… I lost his hand in the current”.

There’s an acerbic wit to their writing – with glorious anti-love song "Archie, Marry Me" the band satirize 20-something love’s banal progression (engaged-married-kids-dog) perfectly. It’s a great track – like a lost 90s anthem, the highlight of a triumphant, gem-studded set.

Seeming to leap off the band’s self-titled debut album, Rankin’s piercing vocals (probably a deal breaker for some) are expressive and arrestingly naïve. Their childishness is juxtaposed with the adult themes of their music neatly here. They’re given an extra dimension too by Kerri MacLellan’s crystalline harmonies, which come through stronger live than on record and cut through the scuzzy revelry resplendently.

Lo-fi noise pop is rife (Big Deal, Honeyblood…) and that’s no bad thing. It’s a crowded market, but there’s a charm to Alvvays’ writing and their knack for a great scything melody that puts them up amongst the best of their peers. Next for the band has to be building on the beautifully laid foundations of their debut and kicking on to greater success. They’ve got it in them to bring in bigger and bigger audiences, and they’ve got the perfect partners too: one thing’s for sure, they’re in good hands with Transgressive.

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