I’m pretty sure you won’t find too many bands debut album launch party coinciding with their first proper gig but that’s exactly what happened at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester for Giant Star and their long player Year of the Snake.
The project is fronted by Richard McNevin-Duff, lead singer of 90’s Manchester band Space Monkeys and backed by a host of talented musicians who have come together to fuse an eclectic mix of sounds under the banner of Giant Star.
But before we get to hear the future sounds there is a nod to the past with Richard performing a selection of Space Monkeys tracks in a stripped down solo acoustic set. There’s a mixture of ages in the room but it’s the older faces that have gathered at the front as the Space Monkeys frontman goes through a repertoire of tracks from 1997 album The Daddy Of Them All. The acoustic style brining a new take on the acid house, indie rock of old, allowing them to be appreciated in a different light with simple song craft.
The love in the room for these songs was clear and I suspect it even took the confident McNevin-Duff by surprise, songs like Sugar Cane and March of the Scarecrows held in warm affection by the 30 something crowd. The promise of a new Space Monkeys album by the end of the year will excite the old fans and if you haven’t heard the former Factory Records band go check them out YouTube, you’re in for a treat.
Of course it’s about the future and not the past and the business of launching the album on the expectant Manchester crowd. It’s fair to say I’ve been excited to hear Giant Star since first picking up on the Seven Days To Save The World EP last year with its mix of Northern Soul, Motown, Electro and Indie a heady proposition.
The compact Ruby Lounge stage was overflowing with musicians as percussion, drum, bass, guitar and synth players took their positions along side the 3 singers. Opening track Sign of the Times was a statement of intent, a fierce track with a heavy big-beat sound that pulls no punches in its social commentary lyrics delivered by McNevin-Duff. Along with the album title track Year Of The Snake they are the most vitriol of tracks yet still maintain a real groove.
The set is littered with fusions from the straight four to the floor beats of Bright Lights, Big City to the funk, soul and wah wah guitar of Alchemy (a non-album track that featured on the Happy Pills EP). There is a distinctive reggae and ska sound particularly evident in England’s Burning which evokes memories of The Specials both in sound and political message it carries along with the vocal talents of Kuntri Ranks whose stage presence demands attention.
The tight sound of the band only makes it more remarkable that this is the first proper gig, given the complex and varied structure of the songs the octet have a real understanding that belittles the infancy of the project. The female vocal of Courtnay Reddy are a great contrast to the male vocals of Kuntri Ranks and Richard McNevin-Duff adding an extra dimension to tracks such as I Am The Love and Big Time.
What Twitter said: “@giantstarmusic absolutely amazing last night” Malcolm Burke @malc3d
Final track of the night is Revolver, the heaviest guitar number of the set with an unmistakable Manchester swagger to it that had the assembles masses rocking out. As Richard pointed out “we are a Manchester band, we don’t do encores” and with that the album launch was brought to its conclusion.
On a Manchester scene that is on the rise at the moment, centred around a number of up and coming guitar bands, Giant Star offer something different in their fusion of sounds that reflects the diverse make up of the city. Year The Snake is available now on iTunes with an ALBL review to follow.
What the band said: “The gig was great, there was a lot I love in the room and the crowd seemed really up for it. We’ve been working on this album for the last two years so it’s great it’s finally out there for people to listen to and hopefully come to love. That’s what music is all about, the songs, the recordings, the gigs, all the rest of the nonsense doesn’t bother me anymore, hype, money etc. it’s all about sound tracking peoples lives, mine first and foremost :)” Richard McNevin-Duff, Giant Star
**All photos courtesy of Trust A Fox Photography @TrustFox
We Are The Supercool
Blowing Down The Stylus/King Monkey
Dear Dhinus/Ready For The Rampage/Drug Soup
March Of The Scarecrows
Giant Star Set List:
Sign Of The Times
Bright Lights,Big City
Year Of The Snake
I Am The Love