THE ALTERED HOURS + PRETTY HAPPY – KOMEDIA STUDIO BAR, BRIGHTON – 18.11.21
I first encountered The Altered Hours supporting Fontaines DC on their tour a couple of months ago. In the same way that I encountered them, so I am discovering Pretty Happy for the first time. Like The Altered Hours, they are also from Cork, which along with Dublin, seems to have been the birthplace of some interesting bands in the last couple of years.
When Pretty Happy take the stage they appear to be a standard three-piece but this proves to be far from the case. The bass player abandons his bass for the first song to concentrate on shouted vocals. All three members share the vocals. Guitarist Abbey is shouty whilst the drummer sings surprisingly sweetly!
The band’s whole approach to their music seems to be one of controlled chaos, which is exciting as it constantly seems that the music could zoom off at a tangent at any given moment. The occasional interesting tempo changes only adds to the band’s intensity. At one point Abbey sings into her guitar pickups, which I’d also seen the guitarist from fellow Irish band Sprints do.
On one song Abbey puts her guitar down and just plays her pedals – well beyond shoegazing!!! There is an absolutely cataclysmic end to the last songs, which feels like it is accelerating towards the end of time! Pretty Happy are definitely one of the most interesting bands that I’ve seen for a long time.
As indeed are The Altered Hours. This is the first time that I’ve seen them headline, and the first time that I’ve noticed that the bass player has more pedals than the two guitarists combined. They introduce themselves and tell us that they’re “going to play some rock ‘n’ roll music” for us. Well, that sounds fine to me. First song ‘Cement’ certainly holds true to that promise. Indeed, their rock ‘n’ roll credentials are only helped by co-vocalist Elaine Howley’s effortlessly tasteful Roy Orbison T-shirt.
Their material is varied and interesting. ‘Thistle’ starts off as a ballad with delicate arpeggios, then becomes much heavier and turns into something of a juggernaut. The intro of ‘Street Sinner’ just builds and builds. When it feels like the intensity can increase no more it goes up another notch. Enough to give one a headrush!
They have a new album called ‘Convertible’, and ‘Love You’ from the album is not at all what it’s title may suggest. It is fast and furious with gloriously overdriven guitars. Elaine has pedals that she uses to build layered harmonies with herself. She is her own choir.
They have some technical problems with the bass, which results in a fresh instrument being brought out. There is a crackle and hum that won’t go away though. Possibly a faulty lead? All is dealt with good humour though.
We head towards the end of the set, with ‘Hey No Way’, which is about Ireland, and ‘Colour Scheme’, which features some very impressive guitar abuse! The final song is ‘F*ck The Police’, which is an absolute tour de force.
The Altered Hours are very much like The Velvet Underground, but with all due respect to Mo Tucker, with a much better drummer. There are strong hints of Stereolab in there too. It feels like they are a band on the cusp of greatness. They’re a great live band with impressive material. However, there are only about fifteen people in the audience tonight, which is a crying shame. Brighton, you missed a superb gig. At least nobody brought their dog along….
Check out their work on their Bandcamp page.
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