Swansea Sound, Slime City, Soundwire and Simon Bromide
Le Pub, Newport

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Cardiff city centre has been transformed into a vast Ed Sheeran theme park, as 150 thousand Ed heads descend on the streets for three days of bland, inoffensively offensive lowest-common-denonimator stadium pop.

Gingerly picking my way through the crowds - discarded lager cans and fast food wrappers, novelty hat and tshirt salesmen, I have a different gig in mind.

Swansea Sound are playing Le Pub in Newport. They're a band I've wanted to see for a while. Their debut album 'Live at the Rum Puncheon' is a recent classic to my mind; named after a long-defunct Swansea boozer and featuring intelligent, sharply witty and melodic indie pop songwriting. Lead vocalist Huw Williams will, of course be known to readers for leading seminal Swansea band The Pooh Sticks, one of the more interesting projects that emerged from Swansea in the 80s/90s. Swansea Sound don't exist in their shadow, though - they're doing their own thing, despite having written an ironically self-mythologising tribute to The Pooh Sticks.

Anyway, I manage to navigate to the train and arrive in Newport in time to catch the support acts, beginning with Simon Bromide, who charms the room with some beguilingly melodic acoustic songs and endearing, meandering stage patter. He mentions Mark Eitzel of American Music Club, and I can see the influence there (in a good way). He finishes on a great acoustic version of ACDC's Highway to Hell, finding a surprisingly thoughtful and melancholic way into the song. It's always nice when a cover makes you look at a song a bit differently.

Soundwire are up next, and don't disappoint with their pulsing, layered wall of sound, a bit Spiritualised-ish. Lead singer Simon has a mysterious, aloof stage presence, and they're a tight, muscular unit. I haven't seen them play since before the pandemic, and it's nice to hear them again.

Slime City are up next, and they're an amazing discovery, a revelation - a Glaswegian existential nerd punk rock trio with hidden depths. They're musically all over the place, and their lyrics are bleak, clever and hilarious, with songs including 'Less Jools More Top Of The Pops', 'You And Everyone You Love Will Someday Die' and 'Dial Up Internet Is The Purest Internet'. They play hold music in between songs. I fall down a bit of a rabbit hole researching them when I get home, and fall in love with their strange world, discovering amongst other things that lead singer Michael M was the original creator of those images of lead guitarists with their guitars replaced with slugs that did the rounds of internet land a while back - guitar faces transformed into surprised expressions of disgust.

Anyway, with the crowd more than warmed up, it's time for Swansea Sound to take the stage, and they don't disappoint. I found it to be a very heartwarming set, with Huw Pooh Stick's natural charisma to the forefront, solidly supported by the musicianship of the band. I love the way Huw and Amelia's vocals bounce off each other, with some endearing call-and-response sections. Great chemistry. They play the entirety of their recently released record, in order, with standout tracks including 'Rock N'Roll Void', 'Corporate Indie Band', 'Indies Of The World', 'The Pooh Sticks', and 'Swansea Sound'.

There's a great moment in the song 'The Pooh Sticks', when Huw sings "and we knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew Huw quite well", referencing the Pooh Sticks track 'Alan McGee'. It's a good live moment with people singing along, and feels like a genuine connection between band and audience. Huw's vocals sound a bit like an unpolished Welsh Alex Chilton, in a good way. 

This self mythologising feels nostalgic but not in a negative sense. Swansea Sound are writing about the things that matter - music and politics - but doing it in a gently ironic way, with style, humour and panache. They're using indie rock to explore the hollowed-out husk of the music industry in these post-pandemic times. There's a feeling of looking back in the lyrics, as you might expect from songwriters with a few decades to look back on. 'Swansea Sound' is a melancholic moment, with a radio DJ contemplating the last show he'll do before his radio show is closed down. 'Freedom Of Speech' deals with the let down of ex-indie rockers turned right wingers, mainly aimed at Morrissey and John Lydon I think. The songs make me think about the precious things in life, and the bleak honesty of the contemporary political references puts those into context. Things might be a bit rubbish at the moment, but we still have music, and the memories of musical moments in our lives, as the band explores in 'Rock N'Roll Void' and 'The Pooh Sticks'.

Anyway, the band finish their set and convene to discuss an encore. I half-jokingly shout out a request, the Pooh Sticks classic 'On Tape', although I know they won't play it, and it's better that they don't, really.

They play a new song instead, which is called 'Seven In a Car'. Introduced by Huw as a tribute to "places like this", it's a touching tribute to small venues and small towns. After the set, Huw tells me the band's second album is due soon, which is exciting. Keep an eye out for that one, pop-pickers.

Listening again to 'Live At The Rum Puncheon' again in the train home, I'm struck by its depth and simplicity. Although I love the Pooh Sticks, I don't think they ever made a full LP as strong as this (that was kind of the point of them, though, in my opinion). It's brilliant, humorous, poignant, melodic indie rock.

Personally, I'd much rather see these legends of the indie scene than Ed Sheeran. I can't help but think that it's unfair that our society raises such mediocrity to laughable heights of consumption, while missing the amazing music happening in grassroots music venues. But that's why this stuff is so great; it's the small bands in small rooms that are the most precious.

Words Tom Emlyn

Pics Rosey
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Apologies for missing Simon Bromide and Soundwire, I too had to battle Ed Shoe-in* fans on the line.
*(Slime City reference)

Catch Swansea Sound and Soundwire along with The Mudd Club and Simon Love in Swansea on September 17th, tickets here