The Nankeens - Manchester Deaf Institute
The crowd at this Deaf Institute debut may be a tad partisan but The Nankeens simply wouldn’t know how to take them for granted, you suspect. Still, the sell-out notices are up and the Salford four piece are in solid form at this launch gig for ‘Scenester’, their latest release, and their first for local Scruff of the Neck records.
An opening one-two of ‘Shunt’ and the new single lay out The Nankeens’ stall, so it’s a head-scratcher as to why they knock out a cover of The Clash’s ‘I Fought the Law’ just three songs in. Even if they were just starting out, it would be an odd choice, but taking it on when your own burgeoning repertoire is so strong… Weird. It puts a brake on the momentum early on, so it’s to their credit that the rest of their set is so compelling.
Songs they wrote and recorded a year or more ago still have life in them. ‘I’m Not Playing’ and ‘Whispers Down the Phone’ flirt with dusky atmospherics, lifted by spiralling arpeggios and a sand-blasted voice. The epic ‘Here We Go’ still thrills, its tempo change dynamics providing unexpected drama. But best of all is the new material. A brace of as-yet-unnamed songs are introduced thus: “Let’s see how these go…” But they needn’t worry. Huge and propulsive, they demonstrate a broadening of The Nankeens sound. But it’s the twist and turn of ‘Honest’ – “not new new…” – that provides the evening’s highlight, a mid-set firebomb with the band locked in and starting to play off one another.
One step further, then. There’s much to like about The Nankeens. They sound huge tonight. They fashion something magical out of what might initially appear to be materials too trusted and true to thrill. But thrill, they do. Largely due to a growing onstage commitment and persona (though guitarist Tatt’s smiley affability kinda comes across as somehow disinterested) but more so due to the song writing smarts of their front man, whose talent is notable and, on this evidence, growing. Much of tonight’s set is bolstered by a melodic invention and a lyrical nous far beyond the unsigned norm. Make no mistake, The Nankeens are punching way above their weight. Heaven knows what they’ll be like if and when they dare to up those confidence levels.