The Sunshine Underground, o2 Academy Liverpool, 7th December 2013. Review for (sic) Magazine.
For a band who built their careers around their punk-funk-party live shows and anthemic choruses, it could be slightly worrying to see a stage being prepared with as many drum machines and samplers as there are band members. Particularly as said band have spent nearly four years away writing their third album and have confirmed it marks a change in direction. Any anxieties may be increased further tonight when The Sunshine Undergroundtake to the stage; singer-and-guitarist Craig Wellington is clutching a pair of drumsticks, and there is a capo on the bass of Scott Edge.
Luckily, for fans of both the band and Happy Mondays (who TSU are here supporting), tonight is no Stonehenge-esque reincarnation, and this Leeds four-piece know exactly what they are doing. A new song opens the set, with Stuart Jones repeating rhythmic stabs on his guitar, soon joined by Matthew Gwilt‘s drum beat. When the bass arrives, there are echoes of, well, Echoes-era Rapture, before Wellington’s ever-powerful vocal supplies that unmistakable The Sunshine Underground quality.
“The harder we climb, the higher we go”, sings Wellington, in a chorus as strong as any of their career. Following their time away from the public gaze, it sounds like a statement of intent.
Recent single ‘It’s Only You’ is relatively slow-paced, gradually building from a guitar arpeggio into an emphatic chorus. It is destined to be sang joyously back to the stage by many a crowed. Tonight, it is enough to bring out the first maracas of the evening within the audience, long before Bez is due to appear.
The dancing continues throughout, as TSU build their songs on house-beat foundations, reinforcing where needed with pedal loops to the guitars and vocals, before subtly decorating with samples and synths to great effect for those sky-scraping choruses or instrumental breakdowns. Yet this remains very much a fun, live band, and the energy is relentless.
The set closes with ‘I Ain’t Losing Any Sleep’, taken from début album Raise The Alarm, which is itself awarded a new, electronic-edged coda, and is a ‘Man Don’t Give A Fuck’-like triumph. The Sunshine Underground have victoriously buoyed tonight’s crowd ahead of the headline act, sometimes a thankless task, but also hinted at the rewards awaiting them in 2014.
The new album can be pre-ordered at:
Pledge Music – The Sunshine Underground