By Chris Fear
Another Sunday night in The Croft, another metal band playing in the Front Bar. I’m not watching the said metal band, but I can still definitely hear their frenzied performing from the cave-like Main Room, where I’m watching Francis Fear’s ‘Pax and Pallas’ E.P release gig. The audience can hear it as well. Things in here however are taking much more of a thoughtful, sedate edge than the events elsewhere in The Croft. Tonight, our room is dominated by that intriguing genre, Math.
Bath-based, four piece Fixtures opened the night, showcasing their polished interpretation of it. With guitar-shredding so furiously intricate at times that it felt like you needed a calculator to comprehend it all at points, the band showed that they are more than adept at manipulating math-rock-cold-precision and are definitely capable of exciting things.
Three piece Why Kill Ian offered up something tantalisingly different, in the form of raw and melodic alternative pop infused with the faint influence of a range of genres. Listen hard enough and somewhere you can detect the distant strains of indie, punk and funk blended with a whole lot of others. Add to this a pummeling drumbeat, rhythmically infectious bass, and crafted melody and you have Why Kill Ian. They delivered an energetic set, even managing to motivate a sunday evening crowd into dancing: that’s no mean feat.
Now, two things immediately hit you when you watch Francis Fear live. The first is an observation. The fact that the band you are watching are surprisingly young: they’re fresh-faced and appear fresh out of secondary school. The second thing is a realisation. The quiet feeling that it’s ridiculously unfair that people this young should be so talented.
Francis Fear do mathematical precision very well. They do songwriting very well. In fact, it could be argued that they do performing pretty well too. They sound almost versatile and nearly tight already. Close your eyes and concentrate and they sound like the Foals on speed.
They methodically pick their way through the new E.P tracklist, with an assortment of other songs thrown in, including a sultry-jazz cover of ‘Tonight’ by Klaxons and a brilliantly melodic acoustic track. Songs such as ‘Under Grey Skies’ and ‘Cracks’ show the math-precision executed at it’s most efficient, with the guitarists weaving chaotic lines of guitar melodies into some strange, complex layer of sound that assaults your senses. Often sparse, sometimes bluesy and always interesting, the set is striking and engaging, getting the audience moving.
Tonight Francis Fear have proved something integral, something that makes the difference between a band being mediocre and a band being brilliant. That they can play a set just as well live, as the recorded tracks on their E.P.