It is early days for PINS. Tonight's show marks the end of the Manchester based four-piece's first proper UK tour. They've only just released their debut EP. So temperance feels appropriate when judging them. Nevertheless there is definitely some expectation being laid at their door, a swelling of opinion that suggests there is something going on here that is a little bit different from the norm.
“It's a bit serious,” the whisper came from our left. They're right. It was. Stood in a cross formation on the low stage at the Sebright Arms, the dark floor and ceiling there and there such that your field of vision is narrowed to a cinematic band, there isn't much jocularity. Lead singer Faith Holgate's banter is clipped, workmanlike at best (“Thank you.” “Here's a new one.” “Here's a very new one.”), but the seriousness was not a curse. It was a gift.
The absolute sincerity with which PINS treated this gig gave it an edge, an edge not felt quite as sharply on the EP. It made the drums hit harder, like they were trying to escape from a concrete cell, it made the frenetic guitars wail and slash with increased malevolence, and it made Holgate's howls seem even more raw and unfettered.
They reminded you of ‘Dry’-era PJ Harvey. A comparison reinforced by the way it could take a lyric with multiple potential interpretations and always cast it in the darkest light. So when on the ghoulish 'You Don't Need To Be' Holgate sings “I'll wait, as long as it takes”, it isn't a Valentine's Day message from an estranged amour painted in pink cursive scripture. No, it is hissed from the shadows, a thin finger drawing across a pale neck as it goes. To their absolute credit, it remains balanced on the side of threat, never toppling over into cartoonish melodrama.
There are a bunch of influences fighting for prominence: ‘60s girl-groups ('Shoot Him'), the gothic discordance of Siouxie And The Banshees ('LuvU4Lyf') and even glam-rock (the stomping to 'Say To Me'), but, thanks in no small part by the steel-eyed determination with which they approach it, it feels more alive than that ever could explain. Also, while it was often bruisingly loud, it always felt very carefully under control, studied and precise.
Perhaps this is the thing to do while they fight some of the murmurs suggesting they're a victory of style over substance. Hone their craft and spend their shows concentrating on churning out big steaming piles of substance, so they can rub naysayers faces in it. Then they can work on the jokes.
Great live bands can become great in any number of ways. Trying incredibly hard, playing supremely tightly, and impressing the hell out of anyone watching isn't a novel one, but it'll probably work. Waiting for the PINS to drop? We think they just did.
Words by Tim Lee
Photos by Marco Micceri