These New Puritans, worriedaboutsatan
Simon Jay Catling 03/02/2010
Call it a Horrors-style rejuvenation if you must, but the fact is there's always been something interesting about These New Puritans. After a not unreasonable amount of hype towards the tail end of 2007, the Southend four-piece found themselves unfairly derided in some circles as being "just another indie band" in the wake of debut LP Beat Pyramid. Whilst the likes of 'Elvis' and 'Swords of Truth' in part fitted that NME "indie" mould, there was more at work here: a strange obsession with numerology, sparse instrumentation that merely enhanced the impact of their bludgeoning jungle rhythms; and of course front man Jack Barnett's double-edged persona- at one both shy and in your face.
The surprise that greeted Hidden then is perhaps unjust (the acclaim certainly not), and These New Puritans' live show proves that with older songs merging seamlessly with the new. That heavy percussion is the constant once again, though tonight it morphs into a frightening beast, cutting through orchestral samples, post-punk guitar, and Jack's increasingly deranged vocal delivery with sadistic pleasure. In fact, the greatest contrast found this evening is between our headliners and the supporting worriedaboutsatan. The Bradford duo's half-hour set is a winding journey through shadowy dystopia; glitches and Burial-beats turn over like cogs whilst shimmering guitars and loops drift overhead- a thinly-veiled mist in their murky night time atmospherics. Such a sense of mood is only heightened thanks to the foreign black and white film playing out behind them- a strangely therapeutic device which, combined with worriedaboutsatan's sinister grooves, leaves the audience in a tightrope state of anxiety and bliss. Needless to say, it's wonderful.
As the opening drum blasts of 'We Want War' rattle through the near sold-out Deaf Institute however, it's clear that we're here to be energised. The militaristic backbone to These New Puritans' seven-minute epic has something of a call-to-arms effect on the crowd, with Jack Barnett as the tribe's empowered leader. Between songs he's quiet, but during them he takes on a different form altogether: he's down on his knees looking for absolution at the demonic spectre he's unleashed on us; he's standing at the edge of stage with microphone stand gripped tightly, barking out orders. Sometimes the vocalist simply closes his eyes and raises his arms to the heavens, a resignation to the power his creations hold over him. It's this onstage difference in Barnett that most distinguishes 'new' These New Puritans from 'old'. Two years ago he did seem to be 'just another' snarling lead singer- here he seems a man completely absorbed into the music he's making, and this kind of self-belief is infectious when translated live (this would all count for nowt mind, but for brother George's tirelessly emphatic drumming. The other Barnett pretty much owns tonight, not so much threading songs together, more punching holes in their hardened layers in order to reach the set's next stage.)
Highlights? There are many: 'We Want War' is, as expected, a viscerally momentous introduction, whilst 'Attack Music' bristles with malevolence- the children's choir sample merely furthering this. Interestingly though, it's songs off the first LP that perhaps stand out most tonight; placed in their newly loquacious surroundings they too have been bulked up, twisted and darkened. 'Swords Of Truth' is now a confidently brooding stomp, whilst 'Elvis' has become anthemic enough to warrant the outbreak of a crowd-pit. Finishing with 'Infinity Ytinifni', These New Puritans then remove the glowering mask of their performance persona, scuttling off stage whilst Jack humbly thanks us for our attendance. What it was that we were in attendance of we're not quite sure- our hearts feel a little blacker, and our primal desires heightened- but by God don't we feel alive for it.