Though they’ve only played a handful of live dates, Gug have already earned an enviable reputation. Partly that’s due to their members – Tom Peters from Alpha Male Tea Party on drums, Dan Beesley, formerly of Cleft on baritone, and Ben Forrester from local grunge rockers Bad Grammar on vocals – but partly because their live shows have been so incendiary.
Tonight’s set is no different, and at their best, they’re as powerful as any of the bands that the members have been in. There’s some of the same progressive rock elements that were found in Cleft’s music, but also a straightforward power that strips back some of the complexity and math rock tendencies to focus on laser-cut melodies.
Valerian Swing’s music is dense and cinematic, recalling the sweeping, electronic post-rock of third-wave bands such as Maybeshewill or 65daysofstatic. Playing extensively from their excellent new album Nights, the songs don’t necessarily translate as well live as on record. Though there’s a grandiose feel to the music, the size of venue and sound system is somewhat limiting in terms of clarity. That said, tracks like Five Walls and the vertiginous riffs at the end of Four Horses prove highlights of the night.
With long-awaited new album Health on the way, Alpha Male Tea Party are looking to build upon the cult success won with their last album Droids. A leaner, tighter, and arguably heavier sound is what’s on offer with the new tracks, blending in elements of technical and progressive metal into passages of much lighter in tone riff-heavy instrumental rock. If that sounds dizzying, then surprisingly it isn’t; the band’s knack has always been making the inaccessible palatable, and their new songs are no exception. Nobody Had The Heart To Tell Him He Was On Fire and I Still Live At Home are both a strangely emotive blend of their trademark elastic, legato riffs and groovier, metallic passages.
After that there’s a diversion into the back catalogue. The audience reaction to the first chords of You Eat Houmous, Of Course You Listen To Genesis is nothing short of ecstatic, and deservedly so; its soaring chorus marks surely one of the best instrumental guitar moments of the last 10 years. After several days on tour, the band look relaxed and any nerves that they could have had around playing the new songs seem to have been banished. They’re charismatic performers, and although there’s a glass ceiling in instrumental rock, Alpha Male Tea Party are surely one of the few bands with the songs, the presence and the attitude to try and break it.