mon 26/02/2024

FEWS, Prince Albert, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

FEWS, Prince Albert, Brighton

FEWS, Prince Albert, Brighton

Rising Sweden-based indie sorts take their buzzy debut album on the road

Amid the murk, the music

The indie scene isn’t currently enjoying a peak period but FEWS’ debut album, Means, which came out a couple of months back, makes as close a case for tight, post-punk guitar songs played by skinny guys as anything released this year. Part of this is undoubtedly down to producer Dan Carey, whose work with multiple acts, from Bat For Lashes to Kate Tempest to Bloc Party, shows he knows how to capture the best of an artist.

But last night the Sweden-based four-piece had to prove they could hack out a persuasive live set on their own.

First a word about the venue. The Prince Albert pub, just down from Brighton Station, has held its own as the city has become increasingly gentrified and trendified since the Millennium. It is much the same as it ever was, right back to the Eighties and possibly beyond. It represents hedonic, Boho, slightly grubby, studenty Brighton, a welcome hold-out against the ever-expanding presence of media darlings, software companies and well-to-do yoga bores. Many other venues that performed a similar role, such as The Blind Tiger and The Free Butt, have gone, victims of noise complaints and sterile money invading the city centre. Even the jolly folk/blues stronghold The Greys was issued with a noise abatement order last year. The Prince Albert still stands, though. You can’t even buy Prosecco by the glass. It’s a spacious, friendly, loudly chatty pub with an upstairs room that hosts rising bands almost every night of the year. It is an institution.

Their music is all about crafted onslaught Crammed in there, in torpid heat on a sweltering summer weekday evening, a small crowd welcomes FEWS as they stream with perspiration on the tiny stage, their sole cooling agent an electric fan which long-haired Brit bassist Jay Clifton faces into throughout the set. They are led from the centre by US singer-guitarist Frederick Rundqvist who is a mesmeric presence, holding his guitar really high, neck flopping to one side, his eyes rolling, his head twitching manically, as he attacks the mantric riffs at the core of FEWS’ sound. There is something of Ian Curtis about his mode of performance.

From the start, their music is all about crafted onslaught, combined with two guitars clangingly playing off each other, while handsome, moustachioed, long-haired Swedish drummer Rasmus Andersson holds down a speeding metronomnic beat. On some songs, such as “The Queen”, the vocals are taken by baseball-capped guitarist David Alexander, who has a higher pitched voice, resulting in the whole sound faintly recalling successful Oxford shoe-gazers Ride. The Afro-tinted forward thrust of “Drinking Games” is as outstanding as it is on record, and the band assay the album’s duelling guitar drive with panache.

Where they don’t succeed so well is on the vocal and charisma front. Rundqvist has a somewhat deranged stage presence but it isn’t frontman flash, especially as his vocals are relatively feeble. Alexander is better at the mic but only a little. Basically, the quartet have a great sound, an intuitive band interplay, and a set of solid songs hinting at exciting things to come, redolent in places of Kasabian or Interpol’s ability to make attacking guitars pop-palatable. But it also feels as if there’s something missing, as if maybe a fifth member, FEWS’ own Jim Morrison sort, should be helming the whole operation, adding wattage to their dynamic. As their set draws to a close, however, such issues don’t matter, because they drive the final song, “Ill”, riding a motorik rhythm, into full-on Spaceman 3-style, head-nodding narco-noise. It’s a fantastic close that briefly elevates the Prince Albert’s small sweaty gig room, once again, to wild heights.

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