It’s highly unlikely that many of the young folks in attendance tonight have an awareness of London-based noise-pop duo Crushed Beaks, who released their excellent debut EP ‘Tropes,’ in September. In this Somerset university town, it appears that Moles’ indie disco night offering £2.50 pints, two for one shorts and free entry before midnight are the main motivations for the predominantly student audience. However, amongst the fledgling youth there is a smattering of grey-hairs and receding hairlines representing the old hands, no doubt with a kinship for Moles and its considerable heritage of showcasing the nascent talents of bands such as The Smiths, Oasis and Radiohead.
Though the majority of the audience is seemingly preoccupied with acquiring drinks at the upstairs bar during local support act Twin Falls’ set, the urgency of Matt Poile’s telecaster and boisterous vocal as he fires into the opening ‘Tropes,’ sees a mass exodus from above. The visceral clamour of the song’s first verse demands to be respected and, like a tractor beam, the music draws a near instantaneous flocking towards the stage.
“Welcome to Bath….Bath….I need a Bath,” Poile states somewhat awkwardly as he addresses the crowd for the first time. There is nothing wavering about his musical delivery, however; backed by Alex Morris’ relentlessly ferocious drumming, his garage-infused guitar and leary vocal that sometimes bears a Strummer-like resemblance are nothing short of assertive.
The striking thing about Crushed Beaks, despite the fact that their sounds emerge from just a single drum-kit and solitary guitar, is just how raucously loud they are. Taking us from one joyful scuzz-pop racket to the next with the punk inflected, anti-virtuosity of Poile’s playing and Morris’ powerful machine gun drum fills, the pair create a pleasing sonic turbulence. However, conspicuous within the cacophony, are their greatest assets: a melodic sensibility and ear for a hook.
The verse to ‘Lies,’ with its reverbed arpeggios slows things down a little and offers some breathing space before sharp guitar chops and another frenetic drum fill become harbingers of the tuneful clatter of another chorus that sticks pleasantly in the memory. The young crowd are receptive to the songs and the prevalent display of audience movement is mirrored by the mobility of Poile; the front man being animated throughout as he bounces around the stage with insouciant skips and swaying bodily movements.
Within the set are a couple of new tunes that, while undoubtedly being of the same stock of the more familiar tunes, sound strong enough on first hearing to provide an excited anticipation of what the duo could achieve with a full album of material in 2014.
2012 single ‘Breakdown’ makes an appearance towards the end of the set and its distinctly disparate ska-pop rhythms offer the first slow song of the night and, despite its quality, it highlights that Crushed Beaks in 2013 are a much changed, and no nonsense, incarnation.
‘Feelers,’ the opening track from their debut is the final track of the night. Described by the group as a song about “the unknowability of others,” the track’s clattering discordance is a fitting end to a powerfully noisy set.
Then it’s time to hit the bar and take advantage of the discounted drinks as I queue up alongside the annoyingly youthful sprawl of students. I order a Carling for £2.50 and, while this represents a bargain by today’s standards, it is the spectacle of having watched a stirring set by Crushed Beaks totally free of charge that has easily provided the night’s best value.
By Scott Hammond