Review: Quicksand at the London Electric Ballroom

New York's post-hardcore leading lights make a classy return.

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Fugazi may have been the adored prom queens of the 1990s post-hardcore scene, loved and admired by all, but Quicksand were just as vital, their taut, angst-ridden, far more metallic take on the genre going on to influence countless punks to come with their two albums, 1993’s Slip and 1995’s Manic Compression

Before they even began, their pedigree was impeccable - frontman Walter Schreifels cut his teeth with game changing NYHC gang Gorilla Biscuits, Youth Of Today and CIV and would later form the unimpeachably brilliant Rival Schools - and, while just two records could never be enough from them, both were perfect snapshots of a band creating music that was both instantly absorbing and subtly unique, so their split in 1999 came as a blow.

Well, like fellow heroes Refused and At The Drive-In, they’ve hit the comeback trail in the last couple of years, and god it’s good to have them back, with a one-off show in the capital ahead of their Download festival appearance. And while the Electric Ballroom is a horrible venue for punk rock shows - a charmless box of a room that can easily suck all the energy off the stage and into the ether, as Helmet discovered to their cost a year or two back - they play a blinder. With a setlist leaning heavily on Slip material, the nervous energy that made them so special the first time around comes pouring out, guitarist Tom Capone attacking with knife-edge precision on the enormous-sounding Fazer, an ageless Schreifels soulful, emotional vocals contrasting nicely with the joy he exudes at being back on stage with his comrades. And while their own songs remain the star of the show, they even succeed where so many others have fallen - with a Smiths cover. While many have approached the Manchester misery-mongers with an achingly dull reverence, Quicksand take How Soon Is Now? and mould it into their own shape, Johnny Marr’s gorgeous, shimmering guitar line transformed by Capone into something far heavier and more alluringly threatening, Schreifels’ vocals taking on a dangerous edge.

More than anything this is a celebration, from both those onstage and those in the audience, of a band whose influence never faded in the years they’ve been away. Whether it will lead to new material remains to be seen, but at the very least it’s a joy to revisit songs that remain as special today as they were when they were freshly-written.

Emma has been writing about music for 25 years, and is a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. During that time her words have also appeared in publications including Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Select, The Blues Magazine and many more. She is also a professional pedant and grammar nerd and has worked as a copy editor on everything from film titles through to high-end property magazines. In her spare time, when not at gigs, you’ll find her at her local stables hanging out with a bunch of extremely characterful horses.