Leeds post-punk outfit Post War Glamour Girls returned to Manchester on Saturday in support of their fantastic third album Swan Songs. We should deem ourselves lucky that they made it all, as their tour van broke down in Birmingham the night before. Made it they most certainly did though – and what ensued was a hybrid between a scintillating gig and a Labour Party rally.
Opening up with ‘Guiding Light’, Swan Songs’ rabble-rousing opener, it was immediately clear that the band have developed quite a swagger. A cacophony of crashing drums and in-your-face guitars, it served as an epic opening number. ‘Chipper’ followed, with lead singer James Smith hamming up the vocals with his distinctive growl and obscenities abound.
The first five tracks from Swan Songs were played in order, meaning we were given a slight breather during the relatively subtle first half of the charmingly named ‘Gull Rips a Worm to Rags’. However, the power was quickly turned back up for a stunning version of ‘Organ Donor’ during which Smith went for a wander through the crowd, and the Brexit-themed ‘Big Trip’, with Smith and bassist Alice Scott imitating the infamous on-the-spot jogging Talking Heads used to do during ‘Life During Wartime’.
Over these opening five tracks I was struck not just by their swagger, but also by how tight they’ve become as a live outfit. They sounded so crisp and jaunty. This could partly have been due to the presence of touring member and official Fifth Post War Glamour Girl (that’ll definitely catch on) Slate Dog, who provided extra synths, percussion and guitar.
‘Felonious Punk’ – from the band’s 2015 record Feeling Strange – made an appearance for the first time on the tour as a tribute to the bloke who drove them back to Leeds from Birmingham the previous night. The band rarely dip into their back catalogue at gigs, tending to draw more-or-less solely on new material, so hearing this was a bonus.
There was bizarre but fitting moment before the heavily political ‘Divine Decline’, in which Smith pointedly told us all to look after each other, before some bloke yelled “and vote Corbyn!” There was a large cheer, and Smith proceeded to rant about the Tories for a bit. The song itself is basically the musical equivalent of a Ken Loach film, and the audience lapped it up.
To close, they dropped ‘Sestra’ from their debut album Pink Fur. A stand-out track in a career of many highs, it sounded more compelling and exciting than ever tonight. The moment the band open the floodgates when Smith sings “Step on the brakes…” after the long build was truly massive.
The only possible complaint anyone could have about the gig was that it wasn’t longer, clocking in at just under an hour. However, the performance’s brevity arguably made it all the more dynamic and fat free. Saturday’s show proved that Post War Glamour Girls are on fantastic form.