Guile - Manchester Dry Bar

Quite the most vile venue it’s been my joy to hastily leave, the Dry Bar does everything it can to suck the life out of Guile’s blackened, dustbowl rock. Chatting to guitarist Jon beforehand (charming, funny and with the common decency to seek me out after a guest list cock-up) confirms their passion and ambition. “We just wanna do it the right way, you know ? Build it up through gigging, play to as many people as we can.” Led by the Sawyer brothers, Jon and vocalist brother Neal, Guile are worth hanging some hope on. Their influences are as wonderfully anti-fashion as it’s possible to be right now, drawing on the likes of The Raveonettes, The Doors, early Spritualized. Recent support slots with Howling Bells must have been a perfect fit.

Sadly, as a gig, tonight doesn’t ignite as it might. Which has little to do with performance and everything to do with circumstances. Things aren’t helped by the fact that the gig isn’t advertised anywhere inside or outside the venue – even the bloke on the door doesn’t know who’s playing. Hence the tiny turnout is appreciative but as they exit, Neal deadpans “This is gonna be one of those gigs everyone says they were at …” Because I like what they’re about and because I want them to be brilliant, Guile deserve more than offhand quippery and ultimately force me to summon up the spectre of Constructive Criticism. Chaps – a few pointers, if you will. Drummer Jase looks bored throughout, which, after a while, becomes noticeable and then simply distracting – I suggest a week at Nicko McBrain School and a Muppets DVD. Singer Neal doesn’t really connect with the audience, favouring a set-length eyes-closed, lost-in-music approach; clearly not a commitment problem, this, but tough audiences will want to see the whites of your eyes, my friend, feel more acknowledgement of their presence. Maybe on a more happening night (and you feel for them, you really do) this detail would be merely pedantic. But hey, cruel to be kind, you know.

All that said, even in this stinking pit they sound electrifying. The wig-out of ‘How Long’ lets guitarist Jon step out and shine, echoes of Terry Bickers, Nick Salisbury. The strut and strum of ‘I Walk Alone’ recalls the Mary Chain at their most lascivious. Partway through their half hour (just hitting their stride, so nowhere near enough) they unleash a track with a ziggurat riff not unlike Spaceman 3’s ‘Revolution’. That’s not the kind of compliment I’d toss out lightly. And so I leave thinking I’ve seen a good band play a half-decent gig. Days go by and their music starts to wash around my consciousness, growing in volume. The songs, not so many of them yet, with, frustratingly, no solid plans for an album, are strong enough to lodge deep. An off-night is merely that; the music stands up. Their tenebrous, turbulent tumult is in the blood. I find myself desperate to see them again.

Last updated: 19/04/2018 01:09:56

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