Pity Sex


There is a very loudly mic’d kick drum that first draws my attention to tonight’s support act Eugene Quell. I’ve missed opener Claw The Thin Ice due to a slightly gammy foot, the reason for both my late arrival and my choice to sit on a bench despite the crowd being beckoned forward. It’s been a long Friday, and I’m finding myself in the Soup Kitchen basement for the second time in three days. Later I’ll be catching Michigan export Pity Sex, whose album White Hot Moon came out in April this year and whose Bandcamp tags read ‘lo-fi pity sex power’ (punctuation left to the listener’s discretion).

Eugene Quell hails from our own shores, an artist whose Soundcloud tracks are all in upper case and so could presumably have much to spout off about. I let the pleasant harmonies of the first two tracks wash over me before our frontman makes a reference to the film Repo Man and its contempt-filled comment about ‘ordinary fucking people’. For what its worth, Eugene Quell – real name Toby Hayes – doesn’t seem to be too pent up with anger. Nonetheless, the third song repeats the line ‘you had your chance’, a bitter if cliché sentiment you may remember from all of pop culture as we know it. The track is followed by some fun, dissonant radio interference, computer blips and a faintly pop-punk intro. The Brit identity is clouded by US tones in the singing, which I particularly enjoy as Hayes and band move into a more downbeat track with swooning vocals. The radio noises make a return, along with the other important irked assertion that one must face impending doom with peaked cap and gnarly riffs on the side (‘I’m going straight to hell’). There’s no point in me calling it a pastiche – it’s all played loud, well and makes a for a decently structured set.

Pity Sex are on soon. The room fills up, the crowd more ample than my visit here two nights ago. Early on, it’s a subtle head nod affair that fits any moody guitar music this side of Rivers Cuomo. The third track becomes heavier than the opening two, and there’s a good number at the front belting it out. I spy someone with a Trust Fund tote bag, a band I like and suppose I could relate to Pity Sex minus the legitimate US twinge to the vox. Even a slightly older couple have come to the centre and are motioning with as much gusto as others in the crowd. In his first proper interaction with the crowd besides stating their name, frontman Brennan Greaves makes a point of noting that it’s been two years and a few switch ups since they’ve been in Manchester – indeed, I’m wondering where the vocals of Britty Drake that I heard on White Hot Moon’s ‘Plums’ and co. have gone to. Though they would be a nice addition in my book, it’s five or six tracks in and the reverb is cranked up to a feel that I’m fond of (unsurprising, given my choice of guitar was based on whether it could adequately jangle).

As one who doesn’t know the tracks by heart, I’m set to thinking about whom I might recommend this gig to. The music becomes more hard-edged again with accompanying bleeds of feedback, as a guy clad in black with a Thrasher hoodie situates himself in front me and alongside the amps, jigging about with gusto. This gig’s for him! I think, just as the recognisable intro to ‘There She Goes’ takes off, Pity Sex style intact. Hold on there, earlier thought – this gig’s for me! Pity Sex fans understandably get a kick out of the hooky lyrics, just as I and probably anyone anywhere enjoy shouting out The La’s, sober or otherwise. The band surely seems to have a doting audience, albeit one that doesn’t need to collectively don a requisite t-shirt. Focusing back in, I’m noticing that the band members make a good habit of keeping the flow going uninterrupted whilst an instrument needs tuning to the upcoming track. The song structures are a sound that I feel I know: not wildly new, occasionally speeding up unawares while getting weightier and distorted, cooling off for segments with memorable vocals. Yet it’s the kind of genre that feels youthful always, where you want echoes of surf ’n’ skate mixed with being annoyed at your Mom. In any case, I don’t want to do them a disservice. They’re mostly tight, albeit not exactly math rock, the odd bit of slack functioning well with the style.

Greaves tells us of his girlfriend who lives in a ‘really cheesy’ apartment block named Manchester Flats. His voice sounds affectionate towards the crowd, and we undoubtedly like him back. When he asks for requests towards the end, they fly out from the various mouths of the crowd’s frontline. Again, this seems de rigueur for many bands of this ilk. It’s not an adolescent audience, thought it might mostly be a demographic who’ve not long surpassed that era of teen fandom. The band rounds off with obligatory thank-yous and a reminder of who they are, though I don’t imagine there are many here who have accidentally stumbled upon the gig. The final track sends me off with a positive parting impression of their capability, a structure with more tight chord changes, some nice guitar riffing and quick drumming manoeuvres. There’s no encore, which my foot is thankful for, but – hopefully pleasing news for the band – not tonight’s attentive crowd.

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Hannah Ross

Hummer and strummer with Kurt Vile hair. Likes neo-soul, reverb, and most things put out by Beggars. Will review for money and/or free tickets + exciting new music.