Sweeping Promises / Dancer @ YES Basement review – a no-wave tornado of goofy charisma

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Featured image: Press/Shawn Brackbill

“I thought we might get a pint of Boddy’s seeing as we’re in Manchester,” Dancer’s Gemma Fleet says at the start of the Glasgow-based quartet’s set. “But apparently the factory closed down in 2005.”

They soon forget any lingering disappointment from their long trip down the M6. ‘Disposable Vape’, the lead track from their self-titled debut EP opens proceedings with guitarist, Chris Taylor, adopting the role of a post-punk Mark Knopfler, slashing away at his strings sans pick. His cuticles look like shredded Peperami by the end of their set.

Gavin Murdoch, meanwhile, is straight from the Stephen Morris school of intricate, economical drumming. He charts a course around his kit in complete lockstep with Andrew Doig’s bass, while Fleet bobs and weaves with an awkward self-awareness.

‘Chill Pill’ is a lasting highlight. It arrives with a scattergun vocal reminiscent of Sue Tompkins from Life Without Buildings, and with Taylor somehow rigging a flimsy kids’ keyboard contraption to his guitar as though it’s a school science project.

Tonight has been a long-time coming for Sweeping Promises. After a Covid-hobbled attempt to cross the Atlantic in the spring of 2022, the Kansas-via-Boston group are in YES’s subterranean confines for their debut UK show.

“We’re diabolically jetlagged,” guitarist Caulfield Schnug says, stooping to reach bassist/vocalist Lira Mondal’s mic.

“Don’t tell them that,” she jokes, jostling her partner back to his side of the stage. “We’ve got an image to maintain. We’re American.”

They arrive with the freshly minted Good Living is Coming for You album in tow. A majestic piece of no-fi punk infused with elements of funk, surf and the spirit of early B-52s. Even so, it doesn’t capture the immensity of Mondal’s voice. She comes racing out of the blocks with ‘Eraser’, invoking a tornado of a howl that would eviscerate the three little pigs’ brick house before the chorus kicks in.

Her head snaps along the x- and y- axis as she spits through ‘Ideal No’ and the brilliant ‘You Shatter’. There’s also ‘Cross Me Out’, the standout track on their Hunger for a Way Out album, which first signposted that Sweeping Promises were onto something special in 2020.

The fact that the duo, augmented by live drummer Spencer Gralla, can wrench hook after hook from such simple arrangements is testament to their pop knowhow. There are no fancy flourishes, just balloon-knot tight musicianship and goofy charisma that oozes from every crevice. Who can resist free hugs for the best Halloween costume suggestions?

The band are at their best when letting the space between notes breathe, as on the new album’s unimpeachable title track. Schnug teases out airy riffs from his high-held guitar while multi-tasking to keep his glasses slipping from the end of his nose. A touch of fatigue leaks into the second half, but ‘Connoisseur of Salt’ and a rampant re-telling of ‘Egyptian Shumba’ by The Tammys re-energises any flagging feet and sends the punters home with an extra joyous bounce to their step.

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Ian Burke

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