H. Hawkline


John Myrtle opens the show tonight with songs about, in his own words, “sadness and paranoia”. The tunes themselves are a much more cheerful affair than this may make them sound and the moments of lyrical levity in songs like ‘Cyril the Slug’ merge easily with the more sombre themes of ‘Get Her off My Mind’ and ‘Just Can’t Seem to Say Goodbye’. Any indie band whose frontman plays an acoustic guitar will inevitably draw comparisons to The La’s but the more pervasive touch points for me are The Libertines’ early material, pre-Up The Bracket, and the more vaudevillian moments in Blur’s back catalogue. The songs are all relatively brief bursts of chirpy energetic melodies and even if it does feel at points like Myrtle is labouring under his influences somewhat, this brand of indie pop is certainly due some renewed attention and John and his band are more than adequate practitioners of it.

Huw Evans, resplendent in a flowing blue robe, jokes of tonight being his annual gig which references his relative creative silence in the H. Hawkline guise since 2017’s I Romanticize. It’s encouraging then that tonight’s set includes some new material which gives us confirmation that this silence will be broken in the shape of a new album at some point in the future. Both artists tonight comment on the relative lack of audible disturbance from the audience who await each song with a silent expectation. “You’re very quiet tonight, it’s nice,” says Huw before launching into another song, all of which are lifted from his aforementioned 2017 album and 2015’s In the Pink of Condition. Seeing a band play live without any kind of promotional obligation and at the stage of working up their new material is often the best mode in which to see them as it feels like we are experiencing a rendering of the music for its own sake, allowed to stand and breathe on its own outside commercial constraints. The crowd’s reverential quiet feels like an effect of this as everyone is here for the chance for what feels like a rare opportunity these days to hear H. Hawkline play these songs live. It’s a very convivial atmosphere and one that is sadly all too rare in my relatively sporadic appearances at gigs in Manchester over the past few years.

Tonight’s set list offers a well-balanced mixture of future releases interspersed with familiar tracks, beginning with the typically Hawkline-esque ‘Moons in My Mirror’. Huw’s stage presence is ice cool throughout, barring one hairy moment regarding Brexit, and his subtle sways and head bobs are the gestural expression of a band fully locked into the groove. The rhythm section of the group is rock solid and, particularly in tracks like ‘Engineers’, offers the grounding for the more elaborate guitar and piano lines in these tunes. The bass and drums aren’t without their own individual flourishes and some of the guitar licks, such as the post-chorus in ‘Means That Much’ sound like they are tracing the movement of the guitarists hand. H. Hawkline’s music can often slide into angular guitar pop territory in tracks like ‘Television’ but the standout element of most of the songs on offer tonight is their pop sensibility and ear for a tune. The chorus in ‘My Mine’ is an example of the affirming choruses that Huw is capable of writing that strike a chord with the primal urge for melody that is triggered in me by songwriters like Bob Mould and Tim Wheeler.

H. Hawkline refers to tonight as a celebration of something outside of the political realities that are about to occur and the atmosphere, if not explicitly, certainly has a celebratory air to it. To see an artist reach into their back catalogue and play a selection of tracks without the pressure of selling a record is in my mind the best way to experience them and H. Hawkline delivered such a set this evening. The basement of YES may have been quiet but I certainly leave with the songs ringing loud and clear in my mind. The future looks positive for the band as the new songs are all solid additions to the existing canon and contain that definitive fusion of the angular and the melodic that make H. Hawkline’s music such a relentlessly interesting listen. Even without the new material, the two past albums we are played to from tonight would be enough to sustain me for a while yet.

H. Hawkline: Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter

Matthew Bellingham

As an English Literature student it seemed almost a prerequisite that I should pursue some form of writing, so apologies for any undergraduate pretentiousness that is detected. I try to catch concerts in both my hometown of Manchester and my adopted University hometown of Sheffield. I started regularly attending gigs as recently as 2015, and since then have continued to turn up as frequently as possible. Personal highlights include Horsebeach's debut Manchester show and Eagulls' gig at the Broomhall Centre in Sheffield.