Birmingham indie-pop outfit Jaws have long been teetering on the edge of indie stardom, and are just begging to hit the heights of their ‘B-Town’ contemporaries Peace and Swim Deep, who alongside bands like Wolf Alice and Spector have become figureheads for the next generation of ‘indie music’. Emerging fresh-faced from a lengthy 2-year break in November with their outstanding sophomore album ‘Simplicity’, far from the bright and breezy surf-pop of 2014 debut ‘Be Slowly’, ‘Simplicity’ found the now three-piece embrace maturity, treading a fine-line between sun-kissed dream-pop and screaming grunge-infested riffs.
After teasing us with a steady trail of singles, Connor and co announced an eight-date UK headline tour, their first outing since their mammoth 2015 tour with Nai Harvest, with stops in Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and beyond. Digbeth’s Rainbow Warehouse would be their last stop, and a huge opportunity to debut new material to an ecstatic home crowd.
After being nurtured in Digbeth’s ‘B-Town’ scene, Jaws had been cherry-picking the freshest local talents to open each of their shows, from Stoke-on-Trent “summer grunge” quartet RINSE (they’re very close to our heart here at LIH) to Southwest shoegazers Rain, and tonight wouldn’t be any different. Brummie newcomers The Lizards made short-work of enthralling the increasing packed-out venue with their ’60s influenced psych-rock. I had no chance to listen to the band before the night but their twisting and propulsive sound, which nestles neatly between the shimmering neo-psychedelia of Temples and the paisley-pattern glam of ’60s rock and roll had the room swaying in a near hypnotic state from the get go.
Latest Soundcloud single ‘Houdini’ drips with echoing lo-fi guitar crunches which spiral over a killer bass line, whilst early-cut ‘Strange Love’ is a slower number that shimmers with a ‘Sgt. Pepper’-esque twinkle. In fact, everything about The Lizards harks back to the Golden Age of ’60s and ’70s psych-rock, from their mod-like mop tops to Harry Shaw’s gorgeous Paul McCartney bass guitar, these guys aren’t messing around. Now, with a slew of successful support slots with Sunflower Bean, Yuck and fellow fuzz-foursome Palm Honey under their belt, The Lizards are definitely destined to lead the psych-rock resurgence, but for now they’re content with delivering bloody superb tunes!
18-year old multi-instrumentalist, artist, model and all-round cool guy Cosmo Pyke was lucky enough to score the main support slot for the entirety of Jaws eight-date tour, and considering he’s been rubbing shoulders with Frank Ocean and has racked up over 80,000 Spotify hits, you could say he’s been doing rather well for himself. It was a pleasure to get lost in his dreamy hip-hop influenced indie-psych, which rippled with sparse bluesy guitar chimes complimenting his affectionately spoken vocals immaculately. Soothing, romantic hit ‘Social Sites’ garnered the greatest reaction bringing a now packed warehouse to a standstill. Each note rang with the jazz-infused echoes of King Krule mashed with the slacker-pop jangle of Mac DeMarco, the youngster commanded a collected stage presence, and delivered a faultless half an hour set. Now he’s hooked the attention of DIY with his refined and promising sound, it probably won’t be long until Cosmo Pyke is the name on everyone’s lips next year, stay tuned…
Jaws’ flawless performance reflected a superb mix of much loved oldies from ‘Be Slowly’ and beyond, but with a prominent focus on promoting material from ‘Simplicity’, which was played in its entirety on the night. Surfacing on stage in front of an electrified crowd clad in a fluorescent orange hoodie, Connor ploughed into the reverb-drenched fuzz of opening track ‘Just A Boy’, Alex Hudson delivering shots of crunching grunge guitar. ‘Simplicity’ had barely been on the shelves a month and the crowd roared back every word with heated passion, calls of “I’m just a boy, but i’ll be a better man” fill Rainbow.
In a complete change of tempo, the trio then drifted into old school number ‘Stay In’, accompanied by gorgeous flits of ’80s style dream-pop guitar, and lazed calls of “stay in, stay out”, mirrored by the crowd who swayed aggressively before letting loose during the reverb-infused breakdown.
Sticking with these leisurely vibes, blissful tropical-pop synths lead us into the familiar tumble of ‘Work It Out’, its trailing guitar meeting with lush layers of electronica. It’s a definite throwback to Jaws’ teenage years and that “let’s go to the beach” mentality. Perhaps one of the highlights of Jaws’ 16-song set was new fan-favourite ‘What We Haven’t Got Yet’, which surfaced over a year ahead of ‘Simplicity’s release! It’s choppy pop-rock guitars and Eddy Geach’s anthemic percussion give the track a serious Nai Harvest emo-pop feel, and gauging the crowd who swirled in growing chanting circle pits, it certainly felt the same!
Material from ‘Simplicity’ was effectively strewn amongst favourites from ‘Be Slowly’ including the funk-driven melancholy of ‘Think Too Much, Feel Too Little’, and the synth-fuelled stabs and strung-out harmonies of ‘Surround You’. It’s the title-track however that see’s it all kick-off; it’s one of Jaws’ finest moments, it’s upbeat Cure-like fervour is eagerly lapped up by the swelling crowd, who bounce ecstatically. The audience becomes one, screaming the infectious chorus (“Beeeee, Slowwwwwly”) to the delight of Connor and the band. The band were only just finding their footing in terms of playing the new songs live, which became a key motivator when writing ‘Simplicity’ but all were immaculately performed tonight. Slow-burner ’17’ is possibly one of the most emotionally touching songs I’ve ever seen performed live, it’s droning synth beats cascading into touches of soft guitar. It showed a seldom seen side to Jaws, a personal portrait of anxiety and isolation that resonated through lyrics like “there’s a beast on my back, got his claws down my neck”, whilst it’s electronic culmination was impressive to say the least.
‘Cast’ was a standout moment for me, being my most-loved track off ‘Simplicity’. Trailing on from ’17’s innocence, instead it brought growling riffs, and a chorus that just begged to be bellowed back by a collective of drunken, sweaty teenagers. Safe to say it elicited some of the strongest moshing of the set, although the cavernous grunge-pop tones of ‘In The Morning’ come at a close second. Drawing the first part of the set to a close was the familiar noise-pop meets shoegaze thrum of ‘Right in Front of Me’, its blissfully distorted guitar lines had the entire audience mesmerized, luring us into its captivating breakdown – a flurry of spiralling noise. ‘Right in Front of Me’ certainly shows Jaws at their most experimental, capturing elements of DIIV’s ethereal dream-pop and refined post-punk. Its screeching feedback continues to reel as the band leave the stager, transforming into the eerie instrumental of ‘Interlude’ , it’s powerful guitar chords reverberating around the room.
Connor, Alex and Eddy alongside their touring bassist Leon re-emerged onstage as ‘Interlude’ reached its fading climax, before they segue into the upbeat retro-feel of ‘On The Sunshine’, a track that’s reminiscent of Jaws ‘Be Slowly’ heyday. As the chugging guitar dissipates, Connor admits “So many people kept asking me to play this one live…I kept telling them no cause it’s shit” before the trio roar into beloved deep-cut ‘Donut’ taken from 2013 mini album/EP ‘Milkshake’. Unsurprisingly there are no complaints from the audience who furiously jive to its warm lo-fi fuzz, and despite its sugar coated surf-rock tones it’s actually a surprisingly soothing hit.
Connor and his bandmates proceed to thank the crowd for their immense support on the night, and across the tour and praise them for streaming, buying a listening to the new album, gifting us with one last song, it had to be ‘Gold’.
If what had come before was manic, ‘Gold’ sent everyone, myself included into a total frenzy! It’s not far off Jaws usual slick grunge-pop, but it takes it to a whole new level entirely; ballsy riffs are laced with glorious distortion and accompanied by thumping bass and cymbal clashes, it’s got to be my all-time favourite Jaws song. It was magical to witness the crowd join in Connor’s pleas – “Take me. Take me where the gold drips from the sun to my back”, the room was literally shaking to the thunderous beat of leaping fans.
Looking back at Connor’s early bedroom demos of ‘Cameron’ and ‘Holy Cat’, it’s a proud moment to see how far Jaws have progressed, ditching the juvenile beach-pop tone for a more mature, heavier approach that embraces grown-up lyrical themes like isolation and anxiety and dabbles in noise-rock, shoegaze and synth-pop. This night was an incredible opportunity to see this transition in action. The sheer energy and enthusiasm of the band and the fans resonated long after Jaws left the stage, bringing a touch of lazy summer shoegaze to the cold, wet streets of Birmingham. The world is now Jaws’ oyster, and I still feel they haven’t reached their pinnacles. Watch this space!