Photo by Raj Savarapu
Mabgate Bleach captures the spirit of Leeds’ fellow rehearsal rooms turned DIY event spaces, whilst recreating the homely vibe of a place you’d want to go just for a drink, say Wax Bar for example. Its large standing lamps, decorative piano, consistently good playlists and a varied selection of craft beers contribute towards it feeling like place where you can expect to hear dirty sounding music without feeling dirty. That’s no jibe at the other excellent venues that Bleach has looked to emulate, it’s just evident that Bleach is going for its own thing. It’s a fine balance and one which allows it to host a wide variety of events, whether it be electro, rock, or acoustic sessions. Curb are very much Bleach’s house band, and one that are tough to catch live with their last gig coming back in November.
Across a six-song set of mostly new material, Curb are stylistically and structurally innovative in their exploration of multiple, alternative musical narratives. The opener, ‘Gas in my Lung’, is a driving rock number permeated with bursts of distortion and hazy vocal harmonies. In place of expected choruses, the track instead slides into beautifully melodic guitar segments so rich in dream-pop atmosphere it could have been written by Robin Guthrie on board Slowdive’s ‘Soulvaki Space Station’. The soon to be released ‘Tangerine Dream’ evokes New Order’s Dark Wave instrumental ‘Elegia’ with its melancholic synths and delicate, post-punk guitar picking; yet when the distortion kicks in to trigger the song’s final act, they seamlessly move from displaying fragility into outright ferocity. On the more straight-up psych-rock track ‘Slug’, Curb demonstrate discipline and avoid indulging in meandering instrumental jams that can sometimes plague the genre. Instead, the bass parts avoid being overly complicated while still adding interesting textures to accompany the playful Jonestown Massacre riffing.
They performed as part of a psych-tinged garage-rock line up, an event I would normally stay well away from, finding too often that these acts prioritise emulating the sound, style, and aura of their retro influences as opposed to forming their own identity. This can’t be said for Curb. They are a band who use their influences to colour and deepen their creativity, not to dictate it.