The Potentials - Who's Playing At The Bronze Tonight? (Cover Artwork)

The Potentials

Who's Playing At The Bronze Tonight? (2015)


Sometimes a genre description is all I need to decide whether I’m going to like a band. Anything that starts with “psycho” or ends in “billy” probably isn’t for me, and if you include the word “nu” I’ll assume your band sucks, and I’ll almost certainly be right. London trio the Potentials play “Buffy inspired DIY feminist queer pop”. Colour me intrigued.

Thankfully, there’s a whole lot of punk in that pop. Their debut e.p. Who’s Playing at the Bronze Tonight? flies by in less than 15 minutes, and a thoroughly entertaining listen it is too. It’s a lo-fi affair, fairly rudimentary in places, but with more than enough energy, attitude and humour to cover any deficiencies in recording quality or musical polish.

It’s lazy, but not invalid, to compare them to riot grrrl progenitors like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. The short sharp thrash of “Leaving the Watcher’s Council recalls the former’s abrasiveness, while the surprisingly sweet “Extra Flamey” has some of the latter’s pure pop goodness. And, seriously, the world needs more lo-fi love songs for lesbian witches. Elsewhere, the joyfully repetitive “Cibo Matto (Are Playing the Bronze Tonight)” succinctly answers the question in the album’s title, and will take over your brain like a prehistoric parasite.

The Potentials’ levity and focus on gender issues also has shades of the Spook School, the spiky Scottish popsters who deserve to have blown up by now – and in their more melodic moments maybe there’s just a hint of cult 80s/90s UK indie pop bands like the Pastels or the Flatmates.

Whoever you might compare them to musically, it’s their lyrical shtick that makes them unique. It’s fun to hear them railing against the patriarchy and the men of Sunnydale who variously mistreat or try to kill our heroine(s). Both “Hell’s Bells” and “There’s No Such Thing as the Friend Zone” take aim at Xander – the band could probably write a whole album’s worth of material on his various failings, but why bother when there are so many other potential targets?

“Riley is an Anarchist” cuts Buffy’s dull college boyfriend down to size (seriously, he worked for a secret monster-hunting government agency – how could he be so interminably boring?). It may not be their cleverest lyric, but when drummer Zak (as Riley) whines “But I’m an anarchist”, and singers Holly and Shahnaz chorus back “You’re a fucking dick” it makes me smile every time.

“Misandry for Beginners” finds the band at their angriest, taking aim at Parker Abrams, a one night stand of Buffy’s. While the verses detail his duplicitous nature, the song ends with a triumphant, irresistible chorus of “Buffy’s gonna slay you, and Willow’s gonna flay you”. Setting aside the fact that Parker was neither slayed or flayed (on the off chance that anyone reading hasn’t watched season 6, I won’t tell you who did befall that fate), I defy you not to sing along.

There’s a lot to love about the Potentials. They’re funny, they’re angry, and they obviously have great taste in television. I’d quite like them to branch out into Angel territory so they can sing about how annoying Connor was, and how unconvincing Angel’s Irish backstory and accent were.

Naturally your enjoyment of this record is largely dependent on your familiarity with Buffy. Personally I loved it, and still do. And while I watched it from a different perspective to the Potentials’ singers, I can certainly identify with being deeply in love with Willow Rosenberg.

Is it all a little twee? They sing exclusively about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of course it’s a little twee. But it’s also a whole heap of fun. Buffycore 4 life.