Expert Alterations

Expert Alterations


Having had what seems like daily band practices in a friends cellar over the last 3 weeks, I arrive at Mono wondering how I’ll react hearing some music played in a space where you don’t feel like you’re constantly obscuring someone’s view no matter where you stand. However I soon realise I needn’t have worried as I step into Mono’s tiny underground gig venue. It’s a brilliant space with the luminous ‘Listen’ sign in the background giving the room a sense that it was purpose built for gigs, but with the black and tallow hazard tape plastered on the walls inviting you to remember your true surroundings. The brick walls and petite sound desk feel appropriately DIY for a band who resemble the independent C86 scene as well as Expert Alterations do.

Support comes from Manchester’s Sprinters, whose members prove a diverse bunch, their idiosyncrasies make for a great visual spectacle alongside their excellent music. Merging fuzzy shoegaze and clean riffs, Sprinters are a perfect support for tonight headliners, wearing their influences on their sleeve but with enough original ideas not to be derivative. Towards the end of a set it’s announced an album is finally about to surface over a year after its conception, but judging by tonight’s offering, it will be worth the wait.

Next come Expert Alterations from Baltimore, who seem genuinely excited to be playing a Manchester show, something always nice to witness when bands from further afield come to the UK to play. It’s clear they aren’t afraid to play up to comparisons to The Fall as frontman Patrick asks ‘Does anyone know where Mark. E Smith drinks?’ immediately followed up with an, ‘Actually, has anyone here been in The Fall?’ The band are repeatedly thankful to the crowd for coming out during midweek, which adds to the already cosy atmosphere created by the size of the venue and the bands jovial brand of indie.

Starting with ‘You Can’t Always Be Liked’ off their most recent record, the band play a set brimming with jangling guitars and bass riffs that almost act as secondary guitar parts. In fact, the bass is so vigorous that a change in instrument is necessary towards the end of the set due to loss of a string. ‘Dear Thomas’ is a suitably Wedding Present influenced 3 minutes whilst Josef K and Orange Juice are also clearly big influences, as suggested by several songs in the set and by drummer Paul’s ‘Rip it Up’ t-shirt. As with Sprinters however, despite their clear 1980’s influences, Expert Alterations are never clichéd or derivative, with enough keyboard parts and interesting chord progressions to cut their own niche in the scene they represent. Patrick’s distinctive vocals also add a key dimension to their sound, and his variations in tone on ‘Midnight Garden’ seals its place in the bands overall sound tonight.

Mono is a fantastic venue for bands like this, creating the feeling you’re simply present at a rehearsal rather than at a UK tour show where a group are promoting an album. As much as it frustrates me that bands like this no longer command the audiences they would have in times gone by, I can’t help feeling I would miss intimate shows like this if they were no longer there. You can’t always be liked, but that, as in this case, isn’t always a bad thing.

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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.