– Yes, Manchester –

Having only ever played two gigs in my entire 23 years I’m not best qualified to dish out advice to aspiring bands but there are a few musical truisms that even I’m aware of. One of these is that if your drummer counts in by shouting ‘1 2 3 4!’ and then kicks into a floor tom beat then make sure the song you’re about to play is as good as The Ramones. Unfortunately, Springfield Elementary aren’t quite at that level of essentialness yet but they are clearly attempting to follow in some quite sizeable punk footsteps. With their lead singer sporting the moustache and sideburns look popularised recent by Mark Bowen of Idles and with a song whose lyrics demand prescription medication from a Doctor (Mark Smith anybody?) there are plenty of nods to the genre packed into a slight set that just breaches the 20-minute barrier.

Given that the band only have two singles available on Spotify currently this reviewer can only assume that Springfield Elementary are relative babies compared to these now deceased titans of the genre that I’ve rather unfairly invoked as comparison here (minus Mr Bowen of course who is still alive and kicking). The mixture of tunes on offer tonight are a rather sloppy mishmash of punky jams with some flashes of genuinely pulsating bass and drum interchanges and interestingly delivered vocals. Alongside the aforementioned Ramones parallel there’s an attempt at a ‘Territorial Pissings’ style vocal meltdown toward the end of the set which is unfortunately marred by some rather on the nose political commentary. As the singer hollers his final angry round of commentary on the establishment, ‘falling, it’s falling, it’s falling, it’s fucked,’ I realise that ultimately, I have to feel admiration for a young band who are following the best path for any outfit, getting out on the circuit and playing shows. The job of the reviewer is to be honest in their assessment but in this case to be too scathing feels disingenuous. Springfield Elementary clearly enjoyed their set and far be it from me as a passive audience member to criticise them for this. Tonight feels like the crowd have witnessed a step in the evolution of a young band which is a stage that a group of people in Forest Hills will have probably witnessed Joey Ramone and his musical brethren going through way back when.

Mush are a band whose output I’m much more at home with, this being my fourth experience of seeing them live and the second time at this particular venue. Having just today announced a forthcoming album in 2020 this gig feels like an exciting point in the band’s trajectory. With an already solid back catalogue behind them, 3 singles and an EP, Mush have the tools to deliver a solid hour long set which is brought to a conclusion with the meandering 10-minute jam of ‘Alternative Facts.’ This song slides seamlessly alongside punchier and more straightforwardly punk cuts like ‘Jackleg!’ and the controversial ‘Fire the Agent’ which “may or not be released depending on how relationships develop.” One might imagine even the title may sour them beyond repair.

Mush have fashioned themselves a sound that is hard to pigeonhole into strict genre confines. I’ve heard art-rock invoked as a description, but this carries with it all the baggage of wilful obscurantism and pretentiousness, words that I feel edgy about including here even to suggest their inappropriateness as Mush are far from either. Angular, idiosyncratic, jerky and punk are all words bandied about between me and my gig companion on the tram home in an attempt to categorise the dissonant guitar rock that Mush are such expert purveyors of. The most interesting element of the music can often be the vocals of Daniel Hyndman which are delivered in a style that I can only describe as louche yet urgent. With song titles like ‘Litvinenko’ and ‘Comment Section Creeps’ Hyndman likes to address contemporary topics and he puts the economic issues all bands face front and centre. ‘Revising My Fee’ and ‘Gig Economy,’ from the snatched phrases I manage to gather from Hyndman’s lyrics tonight, both seem to address head on the monetary problems experienced by the band which injects an integrity and honesty into their often playful musical style.

Pavement and Parquet Courts are often cited as bands to file Mush alongside, with Hyndman himself openly stating his love of Stephen Malkmus in an online interview, and there is clear influence from both on show tonight with the vocals of Andrew Savage always lurking in Hyndman’s delivery and the quirky commentary of Malkmus clearly offering some impetus for the song’s lyrics. However, to try and describe Mush through comparisons feels oddly lacking. Alongside Oklahoma’s finest Broncho, Mush are one of the few contemporary bands in my sphere of musical knowledge who have created for themselves a sound which is entirely their own and I would implore people to buy the Induction Party EP and experience it for themselves. Mush are already being championed by Marc Riley over at BBC 6 Music and with their album ready to go, great things surely beckon for this band whose music is truly innovative and exciting.

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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.