The Junction,
Cambridge 12/3/14

When the plus one and I enter the gig this evening, it appears that we have missed support act, Soak. The sound is busy chatter, so loudly that not much else can be heard over what we thought was a softly played backing CD. In fact, the Cambridge crowd are just being rude, because there, centre stage, stands a meek and apparently bemused seventeen-year-old girl, clutching her guitar and probably willing most of the people there to shut up for just a few minutes and take an interest in her. At least that’s what it looks like from where I’m standing. More fool them because, having heard Soak on record when doing a bit of pre-show research, this rather asexual angel is more than deserving of attention. Signed to Chvrches label, ‘Goodbye Records’, this Irish storyteller’s brand of alternative folk is as strong as it is gentle; new single ‘Blud’ a love letter to friends, almost elfin in style for its mystical quality. Soak will no doubt get a better reception when she headlines at Old St Pancras church next month. Shame. Check her out.

Of course, Chvrches don’t have the same problem. Having risen to the public eye seemingly overnight, they have actually been performing together in their native Scotland since 2011 so it’s little surprise that they are a well-oiled and well-rehearsed unit that, even if you did want to have a little chat over their set, you wouldn’t stand a chance. As a burst of strobes mark the trio’s arrival, thick electronic beats fill the space between band and audience as ‘We sink’ drowns out the rapturous applause. Although really little more than another band on the 80’s revival that seems to happen year-on-year, this statement is not to ignore the talent each member brings to the table too. Singer Lauren Mayberry’s vocals are flawless and pure, weaving around the heavy synths and carving a delicate contrast between herself and the hairy boys she shares a stage with; between herself and the sensory onslaught she shares a stage with.

Theirs is a classic sound of intense energy, Hit Factory handclaps (and baseball caps) updated with far cleverer lyricry and soul-bending melodies, a nice lilting aura in singles ‘The mother we share’ and the simply awesome ‘Gun’, to name a few. But it isn’t until a frenzied take on ‘Under the tide’ that I am really impressed, as Martin Doherty (one of the hairy boys) creeps out from behind his electronic ‘work desk’ to jump around wildly and emphatically, encouraging a euphoria that suggests that Chvrches are not only capable of cool, laidback electronica but also massive dance anthems. However, it’s not quite enough to get the whole crowd moving (much to the dismay of some kids trying to get people moving at the front), a group, who are, incidentally, shot down by Mayberry herself for having a lack of mutual respect for their fellow gig goers- the only time that she talked between songs where I actually understood what she was saying- polite/nervous titters all round. That said, the grey haired lady in front of us has a little bop, though the girl next to us still doesn’t take her eyes off her phone.

Finishing on a blend of old-fashioned musicianship, which saw the hairy boys ditch the electronics for guitars during the very dramatic- and curiously the very slow- encore that was ‘Caught the light’, it is clear that where Chvrches stand out in a sea of similar artists is that they bring the pulse; a pulse that is a little louder than the rest because they are amongst few bands of their ilk that give their collective audience a pulse, a pulse so loud it’s never a bad thing to remind yourself you’re alive. Catch them at a multitude of festivals this summer before you flatline. Arf.

Anna C