Splint / Legss / Umarells / Drivers / Martial Arts @ Soup live review – a post-punk cacophony

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Featured image: Talie Rose Eigeland

There are murmurings from the local underground, whispers that a bunch of upstarts are onto something. Tantalising clips of gig-goers flinging themselves senseless around the Star & Garter to a band who have released a grand total of zero songs.

There’s no moshing tonight – it’s only 6pm, after all – but Martial Arts are the real deal. The quintet have an innate knack for locking onto a hook and ramming it home with such ferocity that, should lead singer Jim Marson ever become a postman, he’ll smash letterboxes from their hinges with each delivery.

Take ‘The New House’ and its joyous gang vocals, where each member knows, just knows in their soul, that they’ve written a humdinger. Then there’s a song so fresh that it’s still untitled, which ramps up the intensity to levels last reached on the re-entry of Apollo 13.

Martial Arts have only been gigging since April, but being this accomplished already is bang out of order.

Drivers, meanwhile, take us down a more experimental path, their intricate songs creep and crawl before pouncing.

In front of amps propped up on chairs, the bassist takes centre stage. He needs to. He sways as though he’s on a fishing boat listing in a storm, his instrument swatting away at imaginary kraken and hydra and the all-too-real human front row who duck for cover.

“We’re kinda sandwiched between some heavier bands,” says Umarells singer/synth player, Imogen Badrock. “But we hope you enjoy it.”

They’re wonderful. With twinkling keys and gentle melodies batted between Badrock and guitarist, Josh Yeung, they’re effectively a resurrection of tweecore titans, Just Handshakes. Penultimate track, ‘You’re Not Here’ prompts a mass shoulder shimmy, while ‘Closer’ ensures they leave to deserved whoops and hollers from the Saturday night crowd.

Technical gremlins delay London-based Legss’s introduction. “That’s a bit annoying, innit?” says their leader, Ned Green, before steaming into the title track from their new Fester EP. The louder he screams, the tighter he scrunches his eyes, and the wilder their post-Movember ‘tache followers tumble into each other.

Legss rely on tension, build-up, and dark lyrical gymnastics rather than anything as gauche as choruses. In the live setting at least, it works.

Fronted by former Working Men’s Club guitarist, Jake Bogacki, Splint also eschew the standard verse-chorus-verse setup. The five-piece lather themselves into a cacophony before they’ve even said hello; a bowed guitar sets the foreboding tone, before an exchange of nods propels them into their opener proper.

They’re a group who explore the kernel of an idea until it’s drained. Entire songs coalesce around a single motif, pressing and cajoling it until it reveals its secrets. This can mean unexpected twists, including a twin guitar solo, which for a few seconds somehow turns them into Calderdale’s answer to Iron Maiden. 

‘Awaiting Hills’ sees them at their gruff best, with the Martial Arts lads leading the ‘I will die on a hill’ sing-along down the front. Splint won’t give you an instant hit of adrenaline but, with patience, they can be mesmeric. 

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Ian Burke

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