Exhilarating, epic and exceptional – Desperate Journalist enthral with a grown up, but still fierce, performance at Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazy.
After local band Life Model have dragged the crowd away from the bar and down into the cosy basement with their 90s brit/dream pop swagger, Desperate Journalist emerge and waste no time jumping into new material – from their stunning second album ‘Grow Up’. The equally pounding and uplifting ‘I Try Not To’ from that release is followed by the hurtling ‘Happening’ from their eponymous debut. Two tracks in and it’s clear that their blend of indie, post-punk and dark pop has been honed while they’ve been away.
As ‘Hollow’ begins I’m reminded that in the past I’ve likened singer Jo Bevan’s voice to that of Dolores O’ Riordan, of The Cranberries, with her expressive and impressive range punctuated by yodelling and yelps. I can now conclude that I much prefer Bevan’s vocals. Her talent is in knowing when to allow her voice to tear from her lips and when to contain it in softer, fragile moments. But it isn’t just Bevan that excels. Rob Hardy sends your spirit plummeting and then soaring with his 12 string Rickenbacker while Simon Drowner’s bassline vibrates your heart through your chest and Caz Hellbent’s drumming ricochets around your head. This is simply an extraordinary band with songs that are in equal parts life-affirming and heartbreaking – quite an achievement.
‘Why Are you So Boring’ is everything I hoped it would be live – all pogo-inducing layers of sound with a sing-along chorus – and is dedicated by Bevan to “boring boys”. ‘Lacking In Your Love’ ominously builds like clouds on the horizon until it’s a thunderous downpour of sound to get drenched in.
When they launch into the all-consuming ‘Control’, from their debut album, I’m unable to resist singing my loudest and dancing while I try to keep shooting the show. This is a song that deserves to be belted back at Bevan from the crowd as she fires the words out to us. ‘Cristina’, also from their first album, sounds as fresh as ever and is like an old friend jubilantly welcomed back by the Glasgow crowd. A three song encore of the stripped back and beautiful ‘Radiating’, the shimmering and fizzing ‘Resolution’ and fan favourite ‘Organ’ rounds off a set that feels like it has gone before it can have a chance to be absorbed.
This band are captivating to watch. Bevan smacks her head, pulls her hair, beats the microphone off her chest and then wraps the lead around her neck. Hardy throws his head and shouts the word behind her. Hellbent whirls herself up into a frenzy whilst Drowner remains coolly staring into the distance. The music takes hold of each band member in different ways. They come off stage like they have drained every last bit of energy in this performance – heads down, bathed in sweat.
The last time I saw this band two years ago it was a powerful and mature performance, but this tour feels like another development. Based on the new album and tonight’s performance, 2017 will be a headline-grabbing year for Desperate Journalist.
Life Model supporting Desperate Journalist
Photos © Rhiannon Law