Headlining a four-band night at Brixton’s Windmill might be seen as a rite of passage in London’s underground music scene — perhaps a time for nerves? Not a bit of it. The Franklys roar through their 11-song set with frenetic joy. There’s no time for an encore (they were thinking of doing ‘Puppet’) and, anyway, the Windmill’s not an encore kind of venue.
First support of the night is the dream-grunge of Hussy, the project of Sophie Nicole Ellison, a sore throat turning her singing a bit croakier than normal but still captivating — she says it’s “more punk”. Exceptional guitar playing from Ellison, with its fascinating de-tuning, combines with her tight rhythm section to hint at PJ Harvey and Wire influences. One band member is missing and Hussy would be great to see as a full four piece, with Ellison’s voice in full flight.
The Snides are next, conjuring a glam version of power pop — Blondie meeting T Rex. Front person Hannah Marsden throws herself into the role of glamorous superstar singer — striking poses, making eyes, dropping to her knees, hitting notes high and low. The rest of the band back her up as discreetly as they can in a tiara, big lapel vintage shirts and mop tops. They add psychedelic guitar hints and pure glam-rock to the poppy ’60s/’70s essence of the tunes, but The Snides are essentially about Marsden’s big compelling voice and performance.
Next up, Long Teeth are an intriguing proposition — Sam Asbury’s articulate lyrics can be softly spoken with a northern intonation, or sung Lou Reed style, or belted out like a young American rocker. Passion, even anger, bubble to the surface, especially in ‘Never Wanted a Job’. Jade Ellins contributes backing vocals and neat bass.
The tone shifts from sweet to dark; an angularity at times brings to mind the funk-rock of Red Hot Chili Peppers with rat-a-tat drumming from Alessandro Salzano, while the smart rhyming helps recall They Might Be Giants. Debut EP title track ‘Canned Laughter’ lets Asbury show off his vocal range, and he sprinkles new songs into the set earlier on. Long Teeth end with the cleverly worded ‘Nice Guys’ slowly building to its Green Day-ish chorus — the third track tonight from the EP.
Headliners The Franklys opt immediately for massive noise — drums rolling, high-end guitar screeching, rich tonality and effortless key changes. They may be fast but they are also tuneful, and Franny Broberg’s lead guitar soars and swoops. Huge dynamic range marks out songs like ‘Weasel’ and ‘Castaway’. They’re tighter than a coiled spring. Singer Jenny Ahlkvist sings, shouts and squeaks endearingly on ‘Weasel’, with Broberg on backing vocals. Ahlkvist takes a turn on the heavy rocking guitar solos and the fun they are all having onstage is infectious.
Zoe Biggs finds a beautiful big low-end bass riff on slow-burning ‘Keeper’ to match Lexi Clark’s rolling drums. There are heavy rock ingredients in the mix, but Ahlkvist’s vocals veer towards the wailing of late lamented punk Poly Styrene. Booming bass, saw-blade guitars and thumping drums are The Franklys’ favourite ingredients. Stomping psychedelia, duelling melodic metal guitars and huge bass cook up ‘You Go, I Leave’, the fifth of the night’s nine songs from the debut album ‘Are You Listening’, self-released last year.
They drop a couple of new songs into the set, guitars playing along with bass in a reggae-tinged ‘Small Town, Small Talk’ that revives the spirit of The Slits. The Franklys’ two guitars and bass go through a full array of power pop/rock styles. The hard-riffing ‘Comedown’ sees the front three facing the back of the stage — very punk, with the singing seemingly striving for the range and heights achieved by the legendary and still productive Pauline Murray of Penetration.
The spaghetti western guitar twang on the emotional ‘Imaginarium’ eventually gently weeps over the throbbing, churning, forceful bass and relentless drumbeat. Ahlkvist asks the crowd to “come too the front so we can see you” as Clark’s drums erupt into an ‘Ant Music’ rhythm for ‘Mayday’, the guitars in synch then the lead from Broberg screaming. There’s a hint of cult Swiss band Kleenex (later LiLIPUT) about the attitude and punkiness, but the track ends with a pure rock climax.
More of that rock spirit carries through the monstrous ‘Bad News’, guitars whooshing and humming to a manic climax. Broberg’s axe work goes off the scale as the set ends with Ahlkvist’s political lyrics on ‘Don’t Kill Your Friend’. Not to be outdone, Biggs chips in with a gorgeous bass line as Clark’s drums power through to the end.
The Franklys throw the kitchen sink at rock ’n’ roll — more power than Abba’s pop, as much modern rock as Queens of the Stone Age, and a dose of the punky rebellion of Joan Jett and The Runaways. It’s quite a show.
Tha Franklys played:
You Go, I Leave
Small Town, Small Talk
Don’t Kill Your Friends
Long Teeth played:
Kind Of Late
Never Wanted a Job