Music, News, Review

The Movielife @ Club Academy review – NY punk at its infectious best

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Photography: Ian Garrett

A sparse crowd welcomes Family Dinner, a Long Island quintet with an exceptional tattoos-per-square-inch ratio and a sparkling line of mini-anthems. Not that anyone would know it from the abysmal mix. Singer Natalie O’Keeffe, hands on shimmying hips, is either inaudible or overpowering, voice swirling the event horizon, while the rest of the band take on the role of King Canute in a futile battle with the inrushing sonic tide. 

Despite being hobbled at the sound desk, they’re great fun. Bassist Sam Weiss’s curtain of hair billows like an Afghan hound on a trampoline as he plucks at his Flying V, while Nick Amalfitano’s drumkit quivers from the ferocity of each thunderous blow. O’Keeffe signs off with an Eric Morecambe glasses wiggle, capping a triumph in the face of adversity.

Despite being reinvigorated by their new House & Trance album, Crime in Stereo labour under a threadbare sound, too, with each of the three vocal mics seemingly being beamed in from different galaxies. As with Family Dinner, though, they’re in otherwise fine fettle. Kristian Hallbert leads the line; a whirligig contorting his abdomen into exciting shapes ahead of each chorus, of which there are ample.

‘…But You Are Vast’ and ‘Small Skeletal’ from 2007’s Is Dead LP are early highlights, prompting a whack-a-mole of fists to pulse skywards from the by-now heaving pit. New additions, ‘Rogue Wave’ and ‘Superyacht Ecopark’, are among the best they’re ever written. They show Crime in Stereo are at their best when they explore similar hook-laden terrain to contemporaries like Thursday or Further Seems Forever.

There hasn’t been such a dense concentration of chequered Vans trainers in Manchester for at least 20 years. Then again, The Movielife shows are a rarity here, and an opportunity to relive 2003’s Forty Hour Train Back to Penn in full is the perfect excuse to raid the old wardrobe. The fans’ hair dye is more restrained these days, jeans rest above the hips, and most of the earlobe plug holes have healed, but their enthusiasm is as rabid as ever.

It’s a feeling reciprocated by the band. Perpetual motion frontman, Vinnie Caruana, dishes out cuddles at the barrier during opener, ‘Face or Kneecaps’, before shuttling the full width of Club Academy’s voluminous stage to whip up the rest of his flock.

Couples and lifelong friends, arms around each other’s shoulders and waists, belt out ‘Kelly Song’ and ‘Hey’. ‘Jamestown’ remains The Movielife’s apogee, though, an irresistible tractor beam that sucks the entire audience into the melee. A shattered Brett Remnes – who pulls a double shift after also drumming for Crime in Stereo – somehow musters the energy to pick up the tempo for the album’s second half. Here be dragons and sub-par tunes that were rarely played the first time around: ‘It’s Something’ and ‘Keep Never Changing’ will head straight back to the vault once they’re back home on Long Island.

‘I Hope You Die Soon’, complete with a mimed Caruana throat slash, kicks off an extended romp through the band’s older material – ‘Hand Grenade’, ‘Walking on Glass’ and ‘This Time Next Year’ among them – with ageing knees and ankles and larynxes put to the test down the front. They all pass with flying, albeit sweaty, colours.

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Ian Burke

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