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Tonight’s headliners have been a fixture within the Merseyside music scene for over a decade and, as such, their performances tend to draw an eclectic crowd of fans old and new. Having not released an album for several years there is always the risk that these shows may lean too heavily on nostalgia, but BY THE SEA’s strong back catalogue means that any outing is almost guaranteed to be gripping.
The third of three support acts tonight, COW are certainly worthy of their place on the bill. Their garage rock aesthetic is glued together by an impressive rhythm section and their restrained yet hooky songwriting is reminiscent of certain acts coming out of the New York scene in the 00s. Single Notemakers is a well-crafted piece that showcases the contributions of the group’s bassist and, stylistically, demonstrates why they are a good fit as the main support for the headliners.
By The Sea emerge to what has gradually become a reassuringly large audience and ease into a set that meanders through their two previously released LPs. By The Sea, the eponymous track from their eponymous debut, is still as ethereal and satisfying as fans will remember it being when it first surfaced back in 2012. Liam Power’s characteristically understated vocals float just above the reverb-soaked interweaving melodies of the lead guitar. The track serves as a reminder of what was originally so captivating about the band. Back when Bradford Cox et al seemed to rule the indie landscape, By The Sea carved out a more pop-inflected groove for themselves and it is one that they are clearly still comfortably inhabiting.
New track UFO from the forthcoming LP Heaven Knows Magnolia provides an exciting taste of what will be a highly anticipated release. A more direct and powerful sounding piece than their earlier work, it nonetheless retains the signature elements of a sound that has served them so well thus far. Slow and measured, it creeps along melancholically while performing dynamic shifts that maintains its impact throughout. As possibly the highlight of the set it is a promising sign of things to come.
Shows like this serve as a reminder of the importance of vibrant, local music cultures and also of how often the artists that make up the fabric of these communities are the ones who endeavour and survive, often without the recognition they deserve. It’s always good to see a band like By The Sea doing what they do best. And with a new album on the way the ship looks set to keep sailing.