Gig Review: FEHM – Shacklewell Arms – 11/08/18

Following in the footsteps of Eagulls and Autobahn, FEHM are the latest in a long line of noteworthy Leeds-based post-punk acts. They’ve been consistently chugging away releasing progressively more proficient and exciting recordings, none more so than their latest release coming in the form of two singles, ‘Scarborough Warning’ and ‘The Sea To Come’. Accompanying the release with a run of shows, the band transported their distinctive synthesiser tinged brand of post-punk down the M1 motorway on a chilly summer’s evening to London’s Shacklewell Arms.

London locals, Bo Gritz provided the evening’s warm up, and along with it a no-holds-barred aural attack. Imposing bass riffs drive their sound, with lead guitar and full-throated vocals merely providing a complimentary crunching texture. The band, one of which holds a striking resemblance to Julian Barratt, provide loud, riff-laden, post-punk that proves effective in getting a select few moving within the impressively full room. Ending their set, they slip into an imposing groove, holding back the ear-shattering power displayed towards the beginning of the set. It all feels slightly incohesive and a little raw, but interesting none the less.

After a short but thunderous set and a quick trip to the bar, it’s time for FEHM. The five-piece hustle to load in their considerable stage setup, sending tangles of wires and KORG pads soaring. It’s a remarkable feat, as in what feels like no time at all a swell of synthesisers marks their arrival. The first few songs are met with subdued applause, with an apparent tension appearing to emanate from the stage. The songs are good, but it sounds and feels almost as if the band are going through the motions, with their minds already on the long trip back up North. Given their haste to get on stage it’s perhaps unsurprising that the sound feels somewhat lacklustre, missing a distinguishing punch and falling short of the standard set by the bands impressively produced recordings. It’s an issue recognised by those on stage and calmly resolved by instructions for “more bass and synth” in a homesickness-inducing Northern twang.

The band erupt into the next song and sound immediately refreshed and infinitely more dynamic by their instructed tweaks. The punching bass and newly invigorated synthesisers fill the room, helping to construct a noticeably more galvanised audience, now intent on dancing their way through a wet Saturday night in East London. Adding further levels of convincement, lead singer Paul Riddle’s vocals seemed to have hit their stride and is now belting out his vocal duties at full pelt, stamping his authority across a thick layer of atmospheric synthesiser, jangly guitar and crunching drums. The quintet descends through the gears and alters the pace for the introduction of new song ‘A Sea To Come’. Despite the downbeat nature of the song, there’s no less immediacy and interest, with a painstakingly wistful piano melody set against the backdrop of ebbing and flowing electronics, which proves effective in constructing a certifiably maudlin atmosphere.

Riddle apologises for taking a decidedly weepy turn, stating that “sometimes, you just gotta get shit off your chest”,  while promising the songs to follow will be cut from a slightly more upbeat cloth. If nothing else they deliver on their promise, with the introduction of a second new song and future fan favourite, ‘Scarborough Warning’. A synergetic relationship between appealing synthesiser electronics, melodic hooks, and Riddle’s vocals sees each member appear at their most contented, ruthlessly slaying their way through a horrendously catchy, ear-worm producing chorus and beyond. Head nodding and foot tapping proves contagious in the room, and the song ends to the biggest applause of the night, from which it’s clear to see a few local residents have been converted to fans.

To end the night, FEHM dig into their back catalogue and bring out ‘Human Age’ for the penultimate song. The warmed-up crowd react well to another set highlight, but it’s clear to see the crown of ‘set-banger’ has been well and truly unseated by the band’s new material. To end the set they let loose and slip into a groove tinged jam to navigate their way through towards the end of the set. It makes a welcome change away from the robust post-punk milieu of the rest of the evening and something that the band could easily add more of to their set to bolster their already impressive live repertoire. A reputable round of applause rings throughout the room as the band hurdle off stage. For a moment it’s unclear whether they are to return with not a person leaving the room until their permanent departure is confirmed, a good sign that this was an enjoyable gig. However, the vivacious lead singer bundles back onto the stage in a flurry of peroxide blonde hair, waves his arms and signals the end of the night. With the release of two new gems to play during their live set and a decent run out in front of an acquiescent London crowd, the future looks bright for FEHM.

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