Having and creating fun in equal measure, Crows breathe life back into UK punk at YES Manchester 

UK punk is having a bit of a moment. Bands such as Idles, Goat Girl and Fontaines DC are riding waves of interest and angst made by young, answer-searching listeners in these testing times. Hot on their heels is Crows, born in London and tonight blessing Manchester’s freshman venue YES for a wholly hectic affair.

The four-piece is fronted by James Cox, who takes the band’s baggy head-banging music to exciting heights with his performance. Opening with ‘Silver Tongues’, Cox comes out with the first of his signature moves – the rapid side-to-side headshake, which is reminiscent of both Ian Curtis and the scene in Four Lions where they try to “come out blurry” on CCTV.

His second move comes later when he dives headfirst into the audience, only to be held upside down with feet wandering across the ceiling. An impassioned young man from the audience is full-mouth kissed at one point, whilst crowd members jump on stage almost as frequently as Cox flies off it. The YES basement is the perfect playground for Crows, with the singer swinging on a monkey bar above the stage ready to take his fight to the fans at any moment.

Alongside the stage antics, Cox has a fantastically classic voice. It’s from the same garage-rock pool as Drenge’s Eoin Loveless and the Horrors’ Faris Badwan. He adds plenty of echo on the mic, his voice filling the club basement to sound like a cathedral. In spite of the crushing guitars and symbols, it’s the post-punk, goth-y sounds that come through strongest when Cox joins in, the influence of Bauhaus and the Cure clearly heard in the chaos.

What the audience hears most though is the hearty thrashing of instruments that gets the ground shaking. ‘Empyrean’ works around a simple guitar line, before parts pile and build on top until every instrument is thrashed within an inch of its life. Guitarist Steve Goodard rinses his riffs through some serious tremolo, like on ‘Hang Me High’ and ‘Ghost Tape #10’, to give their sound extra quake.

An accidental highlight comes when his guitar runs into technical difficulties and drops out for a minute, along with Cox’s vocal part. With half the band broken down, the rhythm section rolls with the punch and both bassist and drummer create a lengthy interlude, breaking up the tempo of the set nicely. When the band falls back into full force, the crowd are keener than ever and shove each other with extra vigour.

They end on the more upbeat-indie note of ‘Chain of Being’; the band beat their toys to death until the show finally comes to a halt. They’ve had and caused a lot of fun; Crows will surely be ones to watch this year.

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Photo credit: Bands on Film