Ipswich's Basement just keeps going from strength to strength. Having seen the group four times already at previous stages as a band--scrappy opening act in 2009 to commandeering a chaotic crowd in Leeds two months earlier--its improvement as a band is constant. Appropriately playing in the basement of Manchester Academy, the barrier placed before the band meant the set was less about garnering a huge reaction and more about putting the relative high production of the venue to embellish its sound. Frankly, Basement has never sounded better; its songs came out as huge, clear compositions, and while melancholic Lifetime-esque punk is always great to hear, it's the new songs that really impress. Though the majority of the set was pulled from last year's excellent I Wish I Could Stay Here, the two new songs show the natural progression to a more atmospheric, heavier sound. The second of the pair was like nothing Basement has done before, imbued with a thick, discordant Dischord guitar attack that sounded unreal in the live environment. Vocally, these new tracks take singer Andrew Fisher, who clutched to the mic stand for the entire set, to places his larynx has never ventured, tearing his vocal cords apart with a hitherto unheard of howl.
Man Overboard isn't reinventing the wheel with its pop-punk songs about girls (is there any other kind?), but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Again, the crowd was surprisingly subdued for the New Jersey quintet. Maybe it's burnout. Man Overboard has been over to the U.K. four (if not more) times since 2011 alone, or maybe the largely young crowd were just here for Your Demise. Either way, the band delivered a solid if unspectacular set of deliriously catchy songs such as "Montrose," "Real Talk" and "Something's Weird." A noticeable problem is the voice of lead singer Zac Eisenstein, who is more nasal live than on record. It almost sounds like parody.
Trapped Under Ice's last record, Big Kiss Goodnight, took me completely by surprise. I don't usually not listen to the band's brand of streetwise hardcore, but it's so full of ideas it constantly found its way into my listening; it's that good. It's certainly worth your time, even if you're usually dismissive of this style of hardcore. Understandably, I was hoping their set would be heavy on the BKG material.
While some of the album's best tracks were omitted ("You and I," "Time Waits"), TUI still delivered song after song of well constructed punishment. Opening with the stomping "Pleased To Meet You," with its empowering use of the band's name as its chorus, the band never let up and neither did the crowd, carving a crater-sized pit into the crowd that remained wide open for the rest of the set, while piles of bodies amassed at the barrier. The band dug deep into its discography, so stone cold cuts like "Half A Person" and set ender, the awesomely grooving "Reality Unfolds," were given an airing, fitting in well with more accomplished tracks like "Jail," "Outcast" and "Born to Die," which saw Basement's Fisher return to the stage to deliver the vocals before the breakdown.
As is customary, TUI vocalist Justice Tripp thanked the rest of the touring bands, but then unexpectedly thanked Manchester hardcore stalwarts Broken Teeth, which saw the room spontaneously erupt in appreciation; that band has come a long way. Tripp even afforded BT singer Dale Graham the mic for part of one song. Check them out.
The set wasn't without faults; Tripp's delivery sometimes morphs into a strange R&B croon at times, which sounds awkward with the ridiculous heaviness of the music. Finally, the crowd could've chilled out--there was a legitimate fight near the beginning of the set and the bizarre and cowardly act of crowd-killing was in full effect.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer were two philosophers from the Frankfurt School who came up with the theory of mass culture. Essentially, their theory proposed the idea that (amongst other things), standardized products result in standardized reactions from the audience; any difference in the respective product is regarded as pseudo-individual. Today, it's disregarded as one big sweeping elitist judgment, but for anyone looking to legitimize Adorno and Horkeimer's polemic, they should go and watch Your Demise in a live setting.
Recently, Your Demise has become the standard bearers for generic U.K. hardcore. Detractors often point to the band's fluctuating genre-hopping with each album; last year's The Kids We Used to Be channeled the desperate leanings of bands like Sinking Ships, while the group's earlier material comes off as Hatebreed worship. It's still "hardcore," but those differences in genre really are pseudo-individual; it's still Your Demise underneath whatever outfit the members choose to wear, and it's still pretty bad. A few weeks ago, YD reached its nadir when its released the video for new single "These Lights." The video and song were largely ridiculed due to the large amount of onscreen outfit changes in the song's short space of time as well as its new poppy punk direction.
So what of that standardized product? Your Demise is still pedaling the same by-the-numbers hardcore and despite the aforementioned genre-hopping, it all sounds the same; the dull, muddy sound, in which the vocals and kick drum held dominion of clarity, didn't help their cause, with the guitars farting out as one long screed of fuzz for the set's duration. Not that the songs themselves were much good to begin with. Your Demise has got a monopoly on factory line hardcore, with every song speeding up and breaking down with the same predictability as the last. Whereas Trapped Under Ice meld groove, melody and heaviness into a heady concoction, YD's songwriting is very black and white. Here's the fast part, here's the singing part, here's the breakdown, just a pathetic grab-bag of all that's been popular in hardcore for the past four years.
For all its musical mishaps, Your Demise has one hell of a following, and the young audience hung on every lyric, and dived to every song. Frontman Ed McRae was equal parts MC as well as vocalist, commanding the audience to "Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!" This crowd could have caved in the floor following McRae's imperatives. McRae announced the arrival of "These Lights" with an almost knowing grin. The band's rabid fanbase didn't seem to mind the ridicule the song has garnered, responding to the song with the same frenzied reaction as every other song played. Also, hats off to the kid for standing up to someone twice his size after their rambunctious windmilling got too much, needless to say it put paid to the guy's overzealous antics; this needs to happen more often.
As an aside, the name of this tour, The Rock Sound Exposure tour, was somewhat of a misnomer. The headliner had a full hour, TUI had half an hour, while both Basement and Man Overboard had a paltry 25 minutes. Do Your Demise really need much more exposure?