After almost a decade away, Leeds DIY legends Bilge Pump are back with a vengeance, and with new album, ‘We Love You’ cemented as an instant classic they’re taking it on the road. And the people of York, despite their muted – or should that be mute? – response, are genuinely pleased to see them, especially with such a strong local supporting lineup.
Percy, who’ve been around about the same length of time as Bilge Pump have been plugging away for the majority of that span achieving a degree of cult success along the way. I’ve not been counting the number of times I’ve seen them since my first encounter back in ’97, and they’ve never deviated far from the template of The Fall meets The Wedding Present with a hefty dose of Gang of Four, and this is every reason to like them. They may be workmanlike, but they’re also particularly strong on kicking out slabs of scratchy guitar, skewed at all wrong angles against a solid, thumping rhythm section, and tonight’s set favours the more uptempo and attacking stash of their repertoire, including ‘Hep’, which is seemingly about The Fall, nth style of The Fall, with the occasional lyric lifted from The Fall and a brand new song, the title of which I didn’t catch.
Featuring the ubiquitous and immensely talented Danny Barton, a former Federal and subsequently myriad others including current solo incarnation Wolf Solent, as well as Simon Micklethwaite of Soma Crew, Broadkast Ritual probably qualify as a York supergroup. And everything hangs together perfectly. At first, it’s hard to tell if they’re tuning up and just checking their tones, but after a few minutes, it becomes apparent that this tentative discord is the beginning of the set. It’s a long, slow build, but from the hesitant stammerings grows a locked-in motorik groove, and once they hit their stride, the venue shudders with waves of shoegaze desert rock with a deep psych colouration. Micklethwaite’s meandering guitar style has never sounded more at home, more comfortable, or more better-suited than to this partially improvised jam, as he freeforms all over some sturdy riff workouts that ride and fall as the set evolves in a shape uniquely its own, and the looseness somehow, improbably, but spectacularly, binds tight.
Bilge Pump just are tight. Incredibly so. They need to be: the central placing of choppy rhythms against angular guitars mean that precision is everything, although naturally, the driving bass guitar, the abundant energy, and storming riffs – some really mega riffs – all count for a lot. ‘We Love You’ showcases an incredible range, and this shines though in tonight’s set. There’s a lot going on: melding elements of post-punk and disorientating mathiness with some twitchy jazz and indie, their musical articulacy is impressive.
The band’s Twitter handle is @MightyBilgePump. And many will likely be aware that The Fall were often referred to as ‘The mighty Fall’. Coincidence? I wouldn’t want to speculate, or waste my time doing so, but with their circular motifs and lyrical structures, they’ve mastered the three ‘rs’ – Repetition, repetition, repetition. Drums and bass lock into solid grooves while the guitar clangs and crashes all over to distil a magnificently joyful noise.
Guitarist Joe O’Sullivan leaps, jerks, staggers, flails, drops, and lunges, and has terrific presence and a really nice rug. An actual rug. Bass-playing singer Emlyn Jones’ pedals are seemingly made from old tuna tins. All of this only illustrates the band’s DIY ethos, and yet in the execution, they’re more professional than so many major-league bands as they kick out tune after tune with a passion that’s impossible to fake and an energy that’s exhausting (I almost wrote ‘infectious’, but this clearly isn’t the case for a static crowd. I suspect it was a combination of awe and age rather than a lack of enthusiasm). At this level, its for the love, not the money.
I head home buzzing, feeling the kind of exhilaration I might have expected from seeing Fugazi or Gang of Four back in the day. Mighty is the word.