These New Puritans @ HOME (photo: Joel Fildes)


Tonight, a film director is curating a concert in a theatre. It must be Manchester International Festival time! This year’s programme sees the great David Lynch putting on a series of three gigs as part of his takeover of HOME. Yesterday, Anna Calvi topped the bill, while tomorrow Oliver Coates is headlining, but tonight it is all about These New Puritans.

The Southend art-rockers are enjoying a marvellous return this year after a six year absence. Their fourth album Inside the Rose retains all of their studied mystique but just occasionally teeters towards the accessible pop too. How exactly they came to be selected to represent David Lynch tonight is unclear, but it is certainly not hard to imagine that Lynch would be a fan. Based on the band’s setlist tonight, the feeling is mutual.

HOME’s Theatre 1 is a particularly Lynchian setting anyway; the heavy red drape curtain at the front of stage is reminiscent of the dark cabaret of the Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive. Our MC Chrysta Bell, a long-time Lynch collaborator, appears to charm the curtain open with her poetry to reveal the band ready to launch into their opener, ‘Dark Moon Woods’, an Angelo Badalamenti piece from the Twin Peaks soundtrack.

Badalamenti’s music has been indispensable to the Lynch aesthetic ever since Blue Velvet and conjures a sense of unreal-ness, silent menace and utter, serene beauty. In These New Puritans’ hands, the music is mechanised and fleshed out, a terrifying realisation of what happens to this most emotionally-springloaded music when a rock’n’roll band get their teeth into it. They delve into the Lynch/Badalamenti catalogue a few times, including an electric funk version of ‘The Pink Room’ that has the rows of theatre seats bouncing.

In truth, the whole set is a love letter to the music associated with Lynch’s career. They perform a version of ‘In Heaven’ from Eraserhead, with Jack Barnett’s vocals far deeper than the original but no less unsettling, and they drip in a sample of Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’ that elicits more than a few knowing chuckles from the room.

We do, though, get plenty of the band’s own material too. ‘Infinity Vibraphones’ from the new album captures the two poles of their appeal at once: the simple melodies derived from the titular instrument on the one hand and the opaque, art-punk arrangement that frames so much of their music on the other. They are masterful at building momentum over the course of a track, as evidenced by ‘Into the Fire’, their danciest and most propulsive song to date, which clatters and ricochets its way around the theatre’s nooks and crannies like, one imagines, few things ever have.

They finish their main set with the creeping ‘Where the Trees Are on Fire’ before returning for one final track, the sublime ‘We Want War’, the introduction to which gets the biggest cheer of the night. The seven minute epic has been their magnum opus since its release almost ten years ago, a rousing, confounding, apocalyptic piece of music that sees the whole band performing at their elastic limit. It could easily have made it onto the recent Twin Peaks series, or perhaps the next Lynch film. Please let there be at least one more.

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Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.