Vital Idles, Sticky Mike’s, Friday 13 July 2018

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DIY minimalists Vital Idles have quietly grown a reputation as one of the UK’s most promising new post-punk bands.

Freshly-released Left Hand, the four-piece’s debut album, is an irreverent and confident slice of taut, punchy guitar-pop that speaks to outsiders and awkward dancers alike.

Formed in Glasgow in 2015, the band’s origins lie in the city’s thriving underground art scene, with members also heavily involved with local publishing institution Good Press.

A fairly sparse Friday-night audience in the basement of Sticky Mike’s made for an environment that was slightly ill-suited to lead singer Jessica Higgins’s nonchalant vocal delivery, which you imagined would be more effective in a packed, sweaty venue.

As they plowed through their set of 2-minute bangers at breakneck speed and with minimal fuss, there was a nagging sense that the occasion would have benefited from an injection of fun, or spectacle.

It certainly wasn’t the intention, but you could have been forgiven for mistaking aloof nonchalance for apathy.

A handwritten lyric sheet clutched by Higgins as she sang could have leant intrigue and character, but ultimately felt slightly pretentious and affected.

That said, there was a certain satisfaction to be gleaned from a no-nonsense set full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it lo-fi punk gems.

The primitive interplay between guitar and bass was deceptively adroit, injecting an effervescence into proceedings that worked well as a counterpoint to the deadpan vocals.

The band’s most obvious musical references are idiosyncratic post-punk pioneers The Raincoats and their former touring partners Kleenex, but Vital Idles succeeded in showcasing a compelling sound that is uniquely theirs.

Album highlights Solid States and Now & Again came near the end of the set, hinting at much more to come – and leaving a hint of regret that the show hadn’t been slightly more incisive.

★★★

Originally published in The Argus.

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