– Castle Hotel, Manchester –

Just Mustard

Just Mustard

I’d forgotten, after all this time, just how intimate the back room at The Castle is, and what a wonderfully evocative room it is too. It’s like being in someone’s front room, albeit a front room with a stage. It also has a slight vicarage vibe about it, with its low ceiling at the back giving way to an expansive opening nearer the stage, it always feels a bit churchy to me. And then there’s the heat, which tonight, despite the distinct autumnal chill in the air outside, is both literal when the single door at the back is closed, and metaphorical, coming from the thunderous band on the stage.

I love the way the band has to wade through the audience to get to the stage at The Castle. There’s something very endearing about the way they have to awkwardly move through the crowd, some people stubbornly holding their ground thinking that they are punters trying to get closer to the front, before the realisation crosses them that they’re obstructing the band they’ve come to see. The Dundalk five piece cram onto the tiny stage and immediately set about their destructive, darkwave, jet engine of a set. Guitars sound like chainsaws trying to chew through metal, the bass and drums propel everything forward with a fierce intensity, and guitarist/singer David Noonan occasionally howls his way into a song. In the midst of all this barely held together mayhem there is singer Katie Ball, all icy detachment, singing sweetly amongst the glorious racket around her. She reminds me very much of Chromatics vocalist Ruth Radelet, the calm at the centre of the chaos, unflappable and very, very cool.

Despite their ferocity, they’re very much not all about the noise; Just Mustard are here to make you move to their dark beat too. Take ‘Pigs’ for instance, the centrepiece of their 2018 debut album ‘Wednesday’, where the bass bounces and forces you to move your feet even through the punishing guitar stabs, it’s spectacular. Newer material is even more promising. Some of it sounds like HEALTH’s disco remixes, turning The Castle into a pitch black disco at the end of the world. Single ‘Seven’ has that razor guitar tone of HEALTH and the groove to propel your body into dance shapes, Ball repeating “do my head in” as a huge wall of noise is built around her without ever losing the beat, it’s a full on stunner.

Inevitable comparisons with fellow Irish noise-niks Girl Band come to mind, but whereas they rarely pull away from the sheer visceral power of their noise, Just Mustard do sometimes hold back a little for a breather, and the contrasts are welcome throughout the hour-long set. There are shoegaze moments as the band allow some of the noise to recede occasionally on songs such as ‘Deaf’, but even as moments of calm descend there is always a howl of a guitar or a Noonan wail around the corner to summon the clattering wall of sound back up. This is the final date of this tour, and it’s obvious the band have honed their set into a lithe, muscular beast, mixing the old with unreleased new material seamlessly, hinting at the potential of what is to come. It’s a hugely impressive performance from a band still in their relative infancy, and it’s exciting to think where they might take their darkwave noise-disco in the future.

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