The Strange Boys – Live

The Deaf Institute, Manchester –17/04/2010

By Joss Worthington 

First off I would like to say that The Deaf Institute is a truly fantastic venue to go and see live music. I’m sure that many of you reading this will already know that of course, but I’m getting it off my chest regardless. 

The stage is the perfect size with an excellent sound system to back it up. Balcony and stadium style seating plan give it a TARDIS like sense of space unusual for a venue of this capacity (260). Throw in a well stocked bar, some quirky interior design and you’re already halfway to having a great night. This leaves it just down to the music do the talking. 

First up tonight are Manchester garage punk duo Brown Brogues who shake up the lingering crowd with some heavily distorted vocals and dirty blues riffs which are accompanied by a minimalist drum kit being pounded to within an inch of its life. There is definitely more than a hint of Jon Spencer Blue Explosion here, not only in their sound but in their self promoting stage patter too, announcing ‘We’re Brown Brogues!’ after practically every song. 

Brown Brogues put on a spirited performance but after absorbing their sound for a little while one starts to find that practically every song sounds much the same as it did before. This is perhaps the obvious limitations of the garage duo format, however, there are already plenty of duos out there who have the songs to match the performance, The Black and Reds, Nice Sharp Pencils, She Keeps Bees and Old Romantic Killer Band to name but a few. 

The Strange Boys shuffle onto the stage with ‘Night Might’ taken from their latest release ‘Be Brave’. The southern drawl of Ryan Sambol lazily trips over the backwash of spring reverb drenched guitars with effortless charm. 

The songs are fairly short and as one stops another one starts back up again so when the band eventually pause for breath the audience is finally allowed to show its reaction for the first time which is generally favourable without being too enthusiastic. Undeterred, the band continues to work through their back catalogue with the same steady energy as before. 

Perhaps it is Sambol’s seemingly non committal on stage persona that is failing to completely connect with the audience. He gently strums his guitar standing sideways on to the microphone, looking out seemingly into the great yonder as he recalls his tales of romantic dalliances. It’s hard to tell at times whether he’s simply lost in music or waiting for a bus. 

Seemingly slightly concerned that their losing the crowd album title track ‘Be Brave’ is despatched before a rather enjoyable cover of ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ by the Four Tops. The gentle enthusiasm is replaced by louder cheers and as the set nears its end The Strange Boys just about manage to convince they mean it man.

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