Live Review: Skinny Pelembe – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. 08.10.23

If you’ve not come across Skinny Pelembe before, and asked me to describe what you will get, you’ll be setting a difficult task. His background and heritage instill within him a versatility that renders him impossible to pigeon hole.

Drifting through hip hop rhythms, laid back indie, electro-rock in the course of his set, it’s a musical mystery tour. Take Spit/Swallow – with atmospheric huskiness in Pelembe’s voice, holding the audience in thrall. A contrast to the slightly unsettling, complex rhythm of No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish, vocals sometimes soft and inviting, but punctuated by a growling, more angry tone as he spits out “Go Home Now”.

Hardly the Same Snake, the title track from Pelembe’s latest record, has a classic indie-style bassline that sometimes sounds a little Stone Roses, but then had a synth line that reminded me of Queen’s Football Fight.

It’s an eclectic mix, and you’re constantly kept on your toes. There’s absolutely no doubting Pelembe’s musicianship, and there’s a rich, layered sound to the output, backed by a talented band. Sometimes the lyrics are lost within that, so while there’s an engaging atmosphere to the soundscape, the substance is perhaps not delivered as it could be. There’s a lot to say, reflecting his politics – addressing racism, rejection, societal inequality, but the intricacy of the music submerges some of that.

But, taken as a whole, the gig is a musical treat for the 200 or so that came down to the Brudenell on a Sunday evening. We’re treated to a couple of new songs – Johanna and We Could Win – both of which are probably the most mainstream and radio friendly in their sound and show there’s a lovely melodic side to Pelembe’s output when some of those rich, textured layers are peeled back.

He’s an artist that is perhaps still finding out exactly how to deliver the potential genius that is in his head when he creates, but when he does, it will a force to be reckoned with.

Same Eye Colour
Oh, Silly George
Seven Year Curse
I’ll Be On Your Mind
Hardly The Same Snake
No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish
Without A Doubtful Shadow
Who By Fire
Don’t Be Another
Deadman Deadman Deadman
Like A Heart Won’t Beat
Well, There’s A First
We Could Win

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