LIVE: Wolf Girl, Charmpit & Sex Jokes @ Rough Trade Nottingham, 15.11.18

A Fan Club show is always a treat not only for being brilliantly curated, but for its ‘everyone welcome’ party vibe. Tonight we’re getting three acts who give out summer-esque sounds about winter-cold feelings, and back up that sense of belonging by adding to a tribe made of those who don’t comfortably fit.

Opening tonight is Derby’s Sex Jokes – one of the many musical guises of Shelley Jane Newman (also of Mighty Kids) – who has been one of my favourite acts to debut this year, and with each performance I’m a little more deeply in love. The set opens with ‘Talk’, the only track available online, a power pop anthem with voluminous guitar and “bored-of-your-bullshit” vocals. It brings in influences from Rilo Kiley to Jucifer, Tacocat to Pillow Queens, but the result is recognisable as being very much Sex Jokes’ own sound.

Charmpit are, well, charming. With laid-back chat between songs and a definite surf-pop vibe, they bring the sunshine and some gorgeous dual-harmonies which evoke the best of ‘60s sound. Recent single ‘Squirrel Vision’ and ‘Summer Up My Skirt’ mix the rough-edged guitar with the back and forth mid-song chat of The Shangri-Las, before the chants break back in. It’s the mix of the punk attitude of The Slits with the harmonies and sing-a-long hooks of The Ronettes which make Charmpit instantly recognisable and irresistibly catchy.

Charmpit

Headlining are Wolf Girl – and while the two opening acts have set the bar high, they vault it with ease with a set consisting of the best from new album Every Now and Then. These songs are full of determination and vulnerability, intelligent lyrics that are relatable, not aloof, and melodies that cut through you in the best possible way.

There’s plenty of West Coast surf-pop here too, and the sort of wistful melancholy wrapped in jangling melody that Upset and The Muffs have, but it’s the lyricism which sticks with you. Lines like, “Don’t want to get to thirty without learning to drive / Don’t want to look back having felt barely alive” become visceral through their resonance rather than through the words themselves, and while slacker-pop and problematic adulting are dealt with, so are themes of identity and love; making this a set of songs unafraid of the big and small details of life.

Most of all, Wolf Girl, like Charmpit and Sex Jokes before them tonight, are about belonging even when you feel you don’t belong. All three bands are suave and scrappy, giving a night full of 60’s pop-influenced hooks with the sweetness razor-edged by grating guitars, and wry but honest lyrics sung in dual-vocals to amplify the personal and political. These are our experiences echoed back from the stage, these are our thoughts and feelings honed into three minute punk pop chunks that make the heart soar and the feet dance. This gig, these bands, are the sound of the new underground and the real punk spirit and tonight they delivered in style.

Words: Sarah Lay
Photo Credit: Sarah Lay

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