Baby Strange | SNAYX
The Shacklewell Arms, London
21st September 2022
Glasgow’s Baby Strange and Brighton’s SNAYX team up for a night of menacing riffs and indie anthems, wrapped up in spiky post punk over at London’s packed out Shacklewell Arms.
After a summer revelling in outdoor festival shows, covered in sunburn and other people’s lagers, it felt weirdly nostalgic to be deep within a heaving crowd in a dark windowless room. But the hour of the sweaty, raucous indoor gig has returned. There isn’t a better spot in London to experience it than here in Hackney in the back room of The Shacklewell Arms.
The opening act is Brighton’s SNAYX, a band bursting at the seams with sharp grisly riffs and yet no guitar in sight. Instead the hefty weight of their sound sits on the shoulders of bass player Ollie Horner who stalks around the stage with a look of fierce mischief, grinning as he wrangles his outrageous bass rig which kicks out the deep rumbling growl of a cranked up bass amp, loaded with the spluttering attack of an array of dirty fuzz pedals. A real face-melter.
A set full of new songs goes down as riotously with the crowd as the familiar favourites, False Friends and Cigarette. The punchy chorus of new single Work is immediately infectious enough for the crowd to holler back the furiously delivered lyrics “I stand up, I sit down, I get told to shut up”. Singer Charlie Herridge spends as much time in the pit as he does onstage, revelling in the chaos of a jostling nest of SNAYX fans, while drummer Elaina Nixon’s ironclad tempo control and powerful drumming keeps the chaos in check.
Having only a bass guitar would severely limit the sonic palette of most bands, but not SNAYX. The bass tone and pace of the music is excitingly unpredictable, ricocheting from high-octane punk breakbeats in one song, to a menacingly steady single-note chug in the next, whilst the band prowls the stage, gearing up for the next leap into the crowd with another adrenaline rush of a chorus. A killer opening act, bristling with venomous intensity, booming riffs and seething politically-charged lyrics.
You’d forgive Baby Strange for feeling a little apprehensive following such a wild set from SNAYX but luckily for us that just brings out the best in the night’s headliners. Opening with Poor Old Me and Beating In Time from their new second album The World Below, Baby Strange deliver a sharp danceable slice of post punk with angular twin guitar melodies that jut out from above the marching drumbeat. The silky math rock reminds me of early Foals and Franz Ferdinand but with far moodier swagger. Led by frontman Johnny Madden, duelling guitars spend the verses clashing sparse single notes drenched in swirling vibrato before dropping into the full-bodied sound of indie barre chords for the anthemic choruses.
The set was an excellent combination of new and old material. Previous singles like the stomping alt rock thrill of Club Sabbath were met with an excited reaction. Newer material like the album title track World Below signal a development in their sound. With it’s dark, industrial energy, synthesiser and deep harmonised vocals, it had echoes of ‘80s electronic nu-wave bands but with a distinctly Scottish post punk indie flavour, that branded it as a Baby Strange original.
After fielding requests for most of the gig, Baby Strange finally give one man in particular what he has been craving and close the set with a two-pronged attack of More! More! More! and Pleasure City. The crux of More! More! More! hits with the single powerful strike of one note, a brilliant moment which is left hanging as the cynical pre-chorus hook; ‘Now that’s what I call music’ is spat out over the top. This is contrasted by the barnstorming, anthemic set closer Pleasure City, an uplifting tune which has the crowd swaying in a joyful reverie as the gig ends. Baby Strange stride offstage, marching straight to the bar, flanked by the entirety of the Shacklewell Arms, all keen for a refill.