The Grates – Manchester

+ The Grates

review by Paul Higson

My usual apologies to the second support act, on this occasion Fortune Drive, who I missed but it at least guaranteed my guilt and a buy of the single and, if To The Rye is anything to go by, I missed a great triple bill that night. The Grates come on stage and are at an immediate advantage by having the most babe front-person in the history of pop and rock. Before you can presume it's a case of looks over ability they kick into song, and Patience dashes any such wrongful assumptions with a shouty forcefulness. Trampolining the boards she bounces away the upset of that Mancunian ritual of having your instruments stolen, the band's room raided and laptop full of memories vanish. This girl is never going to pick up fat with her boinging though she might brain herself on a ceiling, one day.

Howl and Lies Are Good make for a boisterous start though the other bandmates are slower in finding their grins. Patience ends the first two songs with dingo barking drawing closer to the stage audience members with that particular fetish in the lobes. John on guitar provides backing shouts and halfway through the set Alana on drums finally tracks down her biggest smile in time for an important intro into Sukkafish, and, bless her, she is still beaming with the concert finished. The Australian three-piece, on their third trip over here, sound at times like a punk Frente (Lies Are Good), on occasion bring to mind my favourites Angel Cage (Trampoline) or a less pretentious Hugo Largo (Rock Boys), particularly when Patience borrows a gymnastics dancing ribbon from an audience member and proceeds to twirl it around herself during one song (eventually tethering herself to the mike stand). 192020 is infectious and minus the half-inched banjo on Sukkafish she compensates by cajoling the audience to frenzy in the unfamiliar song with her. The Grates deserve to catch the wave created by fellow countrymen Wolfmother and The Vines.

The last time The Young Knives played Manchester Academy 3 in late summer they had postponed twice, once for an appearance on Later... with Jools Holland. There was a little drama with the support slots then, too, when the prop bands failed to show. (Local bands No Tokyo and Wax Planet rescued them.) A late mention to be sure but Chorlton's Wax Planet deserve to be heard, layers of guitars (four enough for you?) with no collision, the merchandise table was hot with enquiry and frustration on the band in the interval. The first fully-fledged LP from The Young Knives had been released in the interim. I had also bumped into them that week in the bar at an Eagles Of Death Metal gig (knew there was some reason for being at that concert). I was unusually sycophantic, the offer to wash their feet a bit much for all concerned.

An unassuming looking trio they make a great noise, probably sick of the comparison by now, but where the Kaiser Chiefs have the lost pop songs of XTC, The Young Knives play the missing punk tunes of the same classic band. In truth they are much more than that. They sounded terrific when I only recognised two of their songs, they are no less phenomenal with some of the mystery removed. The set comprises largely of songs from the Voices Of Animals And Men LP, the singles essential, and a couple of new tracks, b-sides from the coming re-issue of The Decision. The usual ribbing occurs on stage, an impromptu comedy hit too. Several songs sound better live, the peaks and dips of We Are The Also Rans and the stonking She's Attracted as examples. Favourite songs are favourites live also, Dialling Darling, the poptastic Mystic Energy, while the cheer that greets it confirms there to be something special about Loughborough Suicide. I suspect that the band can change their play-list at a whim. At the earlier concert the audience had chanted 'prince of wales', the band responded with annoyed frowns and Big Decision was not played. This time they would have been lynched by the mob had they not. Here the audience shouted 'autobahn' and Walking On The Autobahn, the anthemic closer, was neglected a play, usurped by the current crop of hit singles.

The oldest track performed was Kramer vs Kramer, perhaps their least exciting song. Another track that improves live is a track that is already fucking fantastic, Weekends And Bleak Days (Hot Summer), savage guitars and hollering unmatched anywhere is a crowd-pleaser. They may look like Freddie Davies and a couple of accountants but they sound like punk scorchers, and Oliver Askew is clearly the best drummer since Gordon Disneytime. Truly, no song in their set is pure noise; these are supremely crafted pop and rock tracks. See them live when and as often as you can.