Track Of The Day: Hannah’s Little Sister – ’20’

Coming to terms with coming of age is the subject of new single ’20’ by Liverpool’s exciting exponents of fuzzy, wobbly alt. rock, Hannah’s Little Sister. The four-piece, part of the ever-evolving scene around the city’s performing arts school, LIPA, contain two members who grew up forty miles north-east in Burnley. It’s this background, growing up different in a small town, distant enough from the bright lights of the (relatively) big city, that sits in the background of all of Hannah’s Little Sister’s work, and ’20’ is an excellent introduction.

Drawing from a similarly shronky well to Lancaster’s The Lovely Eggs, and the equally prodigious Halifax upstarts The Orielles, ’20’ kicks off at a disarmingly slow-pace, with a guitar lead that’s only slightly atonal. Lead singer Meg’s delivery is deadpan and languid – appropriate for someone who wants to “say how they feel /…speak so eloquently” but is “too rough to motivate”.  

Even the song’s bridge appears reluctant to begin with, with just a bit more reverb and bass hammer coming after a majorly satisfying pause in the rhythm. And so, with a note of resignation, the chorus collapses into being, like a drunk teetering on the edge of nausea.  “I can’t do nothing about it, baby” sings Meg – the phrase is the song’s hook musically, but thematically too; a sense of inability at the start of a ‘post-teen crisis’. The wish to be a success, meeting deadlines and speaking different languages, but finding that the goalposts have moved and that life is full of contradictions. It’s a theme appropriately well-illustrated by the song’s video, showing the band using beer to wash down mouthfuls of squirty cream, lighting up fags from candles on a Colin The Caterpillar birthday cake, and mixing Ribena with white wine.

By the time the song’s second bridge has come, yelping away, to an end, and the second chorus ensues, its fabric has become increasingly stretched, vocals extra panicked, guitars full of anguish and drums more paranoia-inducing. It never quite falls into chaos – at least not until its very end – but, much like the nagging throughout your final year at university, the threat of failure is always there. Ironic then that with this opening single, Hannah’s Little Sister promise big success.

John McGovern

LIVE: Goat Girl @ The Shipping Forecast, Liverpool, 12.04.18

Tonight’s gig being a sell-out show shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise – Goat Girl are the latest hype band of the moment, their debut album just released following some high-profile support slots. The gig taking place in the basement of Shipping Forecast, a tiny venue with a capacity of barely a couple of hundred can’t have hurt either: indeed, it feels pretty full long before tonight’s main support appear. Goat Girl have decided to do what they can with the stripped back stage area, and three papier-mache creatures with googly eyes adorn it, peering out towards the sound desk and bar.

Openers Hannah’s Little Sister maintain that air of the odd – with a loopy, up and down, freakazoid take on alt.rock. Opening growly and screamy, there’s shades of The Orielles once they settle into their wonky indie pop, particularly on ‘Bimbo’ with its smattering of keyboards. But where the Halifax trio are jangly, the Lancs four-piece are itchy, scratchy and tacky but very alive – none more so on the self-deprecating ‘Buzzkill’, an agonising stumble through angst. Closer ‘Payday Junkie’, meanwhile, sees HLS perfect the loud/quiet, super-sweet/bitterly sour dynamic, as laid out by Pixies. Raw power, with the grace of self-awareness.

Second act, The Mysterines, are a different prospect in most respects. A no-bullshit trio centred around lead singer Lia Metcalfe’s Wanda Jackson-style vocals, they specialise in 3 chord verses and one chord choruses. It’s a lean set too, with nearly no talking between songs – and, consequently, almost no song titles to put into reviews. The band, though, are the visual and aural equivalent of ‘Bad Sandy’ at the end of Grease – looking like they’ll steal and break your heart all in the same night. Their greaser garage is so slick, you almost expect them to ride off-stage on motorbikes. ‘Resistance’ is a particular stomper, whose bass-line just veers off into post-punk territory. ‘Take Control’ uses Lia’s voice as the gleaming centre of a scowler of a sound. There’s no bullshit to be found here.

And then, after those two equally perfect sets, it’s Goat Girl. Having bolstered their line-up with a violinist, the (now) quintet have doubled down on a kind of alt.indie-psych with extra country feedback. Snaky and spare, their songs have the feeling of rural chaos, like a riot at Stonehenge. There’s a folky vibe on ‘Creep On The Train’, whilst ‘Crack of Dawn’ brings a carnival to town, creeping around in a dark vaudevillian style. Lead singer Lottie’s vocals have the same nihilist blues feel as Marianne Faithful or Nico, lending a mournfulness to the rock and roll of ‘The Man’. With its harmonies and lilt, meanwhile, ‘Scum’ is less indie disco and more indie square dance. The cover of ‘Tomorrow’ from Bugsy Malone is made to sound less like a paean to one’s dreams, and more of an anthem for the strung-out, before closer ‘Country Sleaze’ rounds off the comedown. It’s a melancholy set, crackling with distaste and discomfort. And, in today’s climate, what more could you want?

John McGovern

LIVE: Girl Ray @ EBGBs, 30.10.17

During their headline set, Girl Ray lead singer Poppy Hankin confesses that tonight’s show – part of the annual Liverpool Music Week festival – is the band’s first outside of the capital. Appropriately, then, the headliners take to the stage in the basement of EBGBs after a line-up featuring several local acts.

Disastronauts are first up. A four-piece specialising in totes emosh pop-punk and garage, their sound is typified by shredded Sonic Youth-y guitars on top of a bang-bang-boom rhythm section, with flips into math rock and pure grunge. They’re young, and raw, but there’s no shortage of talent and invention, with opener ‘The River’ demonstrating a rapidly-developing maturity. Special props to their drummer too who, whilst the lead singer and guitarist are acapella-ing the lyric “It’s time to go”, decides to dismantle his cymbals. It’s a riotous, consciously chaotic start to the night. 

Up next are Gintis. Hailing originally from Abergele, they’re an acoustically-driven latter-day take on the likes of Grandaddy and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, with the addition of a trumpet.  fter them, it’s Sugarmen – an indie-rock band with a drive that sits somewhere between Buzzcocks and Arctic Monkeys, with the Scouse tinge of The La’s or The Coral’s most upbeat numbers.

Finally, to the headliners, who kick off with the bouncy indiepop double-hit of ‘I’ll Make This Fun’ and ‘Just Like That’. It’s a perfect way of demonstrating their arpeggiated sparkly pop that hangs around Poppy’s vocals, intoning lyrics, all served with just a hint of country winsome.  

The performance of ‘Don’t Go Back at Ten’ even involves a line-dancing style 360° spin, courtesy of Poppy and bassist Sophie, during its middle eight, whilst ‘Trouble’ and ‘Stupid Things’, with their bittersweet combination of naïveté and confession, carry the band through until their penultimate song, which is a Breeders-like rock number.  

Sid from The Orielles is spotted in the audience and invited to play cowbell on final song, ‘Ghosty’. It’s a reminder that, for a lot of these bands, this is really just the start and, although the set may not have been perfect, there’s enough to suggest that Girl Ray will be venturing out of London for a long time to come.

John McGovern