Here at The Verse, we love it when we’re called to review a gig at recently renovated bar The Hope & Ruin in Brighton. Not that its predecessor – which lacked the “& Ruin” part of the name – was awful or anything, it just seemed to lack that little something to successfully compete as a serious music venue against the likes of Green Door Store and Sticky Mike’s.
We pass the downstairs bar – now with typically late-night Marwood-esque decorum (think old pianos used as stair railings and tail ends of caravans as kitchens – yes really) – and head upstairs for the gig, the room of which has a substantially higher capacity than it used to. We grab a bottle of Horsham-brewed Prospect (yep, craft beers are now on the menu), and wait.
9.30pm: enter Leamington Spa duo Coves, who barely introduce themselves before jumping straight into into opener Last Desire, all attention-grabbing drums and synth. It’s a little Garbage’s I Think I’m Paranoid, the only real differences being vocalist Beck Wood’s dreamy vocals, John Ridgard’s killer bass line and – dare I say – a far catchier chorus.
Despite sliding under the mainstream radar when their debut album, Soft Friday, was released last year, as the gig progresses it becomes pretty clear why Coves caught the attention of critics. Their ethereal, gothic neo-psychedelia is wonderfully rich, with songs such as Cast A Shadow and Fall Out of Love seemingly tailor-made for the indie bar scene, featuring vocals that not only resemble Nancy Sinatra’s, but would also have fit right in to the Kill Bill soundtrack.
What’s also surprising about this duo not being picked up by the “big-time” is that they have already earned their stripes by being chosen for the hipster-pleasing mixtape of Made In Chelsea, joining the likes of M83, Bombay Bicycle Club and HAIM on what is named time and time again as the “best soundtrack on TV”. Beatings is a hell of a track live, lyrics “my heart stops beating for you//you said we’ll die together” echoing romantic angst with layered harmonies by Wood and Ridgard. But it’s Wake Up that steals the show, its riff reminiscent of The Cure’s Lullaby, had The Jesus and Mary Chain’s collaboration with Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval stretched to cover it.
Coves are a joy to listen to – enigmatic and mysterious – but there’s a nagging part of me that wishes they would give something away. Their stage presence comes across lazy, as they fail to announce song names; incredibly frustrating during the three new songs that aren’t yet on Spotify. Still, they played a cracking set. Sadly their UK tour is now over, but I’m in no doubt we’ll see them again in the summer.
By Nammie Matthews