Pins - Manchester Soup Kitchen
Is that dawning realisation on Faith Holgate’s face? Pins, and where better to note this than at the home town stop-off on their first national tour, are getting somewhere. A debut release proper on Bella Union, solid notices in the nationals and now this, their longest run of live dates. As ever, Holgate’s immersion is compelling but she cuts an oddly modest figure, not predisposed to “How y’all doin’, Manchester?” pleasantries or the clichés of so many live shows. “This next song is called…” ain’t in the script. They may be playing in a painfully hip part of town but this is no shallow thrill: Pins are starting to mean an awful lot to an awful lot of people.
Because they’ve always been a sharp proposition onstage, tonight is hardly revelatory. It’s just further demonstration of those live smarts being honed and a (still) new band doing not much more than learning to be a band. They’re testing themselves and their capabilities, savouring the scares and thrills, fleshing out their time-served aesthetic – a canvas that blends the black savagery of The Jesus and Mary Chain with more recent, and more pop, exponents of overdrive and leather likeThe Dum Dum Girls.
Of course, they’re not Riot Grrls just because they're loud and uncompromising, and neither are they placard waving rabble rousers. It shouldn’t take drummer Lara’s feminist book club to guide you to understand that they’re women calling the shots in an industry dominated by men. A host of female support acts has played with them on this tour so far and a band's 'politics' speaks loudest when it's meshed into their art at a level above hectoring and predictable labels.
That said, you sense a manifesto that spills over from principles into music, an unwillingness to register the wanky tics and de rigueur constructs of indie pop. In the best possible sense there’s something selfishly spare and under-dramatised about Pins. They hold the listener at a distance. No lengthy feedback squalls, no guitar solos and certainly neither of the off-the-self extremes of alternative music expression – namely, blank zoning-out or banshee explosives. They’re forceful as a typhoon but their approach remains studied, cool. They could still keep hold of the material and the audience by opting for the odd frenzied wig-out. But they demur: even at volume, and even with that jackhammer thrust, they exude menace rather than abandon. Pins, at least in performance, inhabit an inner world that fits their noir visions perfectly. Best typified by bassist Anna, whose serenity is almost unearthly, and Lara, a properly busy and astute drummer, their rhythmic backbone is hard as nails and safe as houses.
They electrify the ‘old’ stuff - they know it inside out and trust it with their lives. ‘Eleventh Hour’ is dispensed with early on, no longer needed as a blinding set-closer. ‘Shoot You’ suffers a couple of aborted starts but then it fires, vicious and irresistible. But the new songs diverge – they’re exploratory, shadowy and drawn-out. Clearly uninterested in shoddy repeats, Pins’ repertoire expands in thrillingly unexpected directions.
The show goes on. They play for what, an hour? Both ‘LuvU4Lyf’ and ‘Say To Me’ thunder and roar. The set progresses and audience and band connect deeper. Last time Pins graced this dungeon (the toilets make the club in Irreversible look like somewhere you’d take your mother on her birthday), they played a half hour slot at 2pm. Tonight they fill the place on their own terms, dispatch a set loaded with unfamiliar material and triumphantly exit minus encore. A few minutes later they return to unceremoniously lug their gear off but, hey, haven’t rock ‘n’ roll gestures always come with a price? One day they'll have retreated to the Winnebago while minions do their humping for them. But for now, here’s identity being forged, here’s artistry advancing, and all under the watchful eye of almost cruelly high expectations. They're fearless, right? Not much more than a year since they first stood on a stage together, Pins take note of the ‘buzz’. And laugh in its face.