27th November | Exchange

Conditions outside are miserable, you’re really not getting along with this week and almost every comedian or news outlet is feeding you the message that nothing anywhere is worthwhile, everything is worse than crap. Some days, though, that little voice in your head that tells you that you can’t be arsed going out and that you should hide behind cheap cider and closed curtains is a wrongun. Your inner hermit needs particular turfing out of the house when Clean Cut Kid are playing in Bristol.

Lead singer, lead guitarist and chief beard, Mike Halls, acknowledges that they’ve been away for a long time. They’ve explored being hermits to a new level themselves, but they’ve been as busy as people not touring can be, writing and recording the follow-up to April 2017’s Felt. Evelyn Halls is hyper-aware that they’ve been sitting on these songs for a long time, so to hear people responding to them (with raucous approval) is a professed relief. Mike assures us that the music will be sharp, but the chat will not. He half-jests that they’ve basically forgotten how to talk to crowds.

What ensues is an accidental discourse between band and crowd throughout the gig. At the end of song two, ‘We Used To Be In Love’, one spectator shouts “What a great song,” to his mates, at the precise moment when everything falls quiet, like that bit of a dinner party where you’re slagging off the hosts’ taste in wallpaper/clothing/wine just at the inopportune moment. It cracks the band up.

Ev suggests that we review the whole gig as we go on, giving rise to Partridge-esque shouts such as “Lovely stuff” and “That one’s a winner”. It would seem like taking the piss if we weren’t all in on the joke. Clean Cut Kid May be up on a stage, but there’s no ‘fourth wall’. We’re clearly all in this together. They’re as open and open-hearted as a band can be.

The set is a mix of highlights of Felt, tracks from the recent Painkiller EP and some of the hoard of new tracks they’ve been sitting on, like some great mythical dragon on a treasure trove. The older tracks get the greatest roar, especially when feeding ‘Pick Me Up’ and ‘Vitamin C’ to an already hyper crowd near the end of the set. Mike’s guitar work on ‘Brother of Mine’ earns him a ‘we’re not worthy’ bow from Ev. For the pop trivia obsessives, Mike informs us that the song was written about falling out with their new bassist, long-standing friend Gareth Bullock, long before he was ever in the band.

New tracks, such as ‘Deafening’, ‘I Don’t Like You, But I Love You’ and set closer, ‘Emily’ take us from stomping, pogo-ing rock, through to Fleetwood Mac. There’s plenty to look forward to from the tantalisingly-trailed #cckalbum2.

If there was such a thing as ‘mental floss’, that you could feed through both ears and pull back and forth, clearing out all of that brain crud that accrues, it would feel like a Clean Cut Kid gig.

Listen to new track ‘Slow Progress’ here: