LIVE: U.S. Girls @ YES

WORDS BY PATRICK PRESTON

Storming back onto Mancunian shores for the second time in seven months, Meghan Remy’s much-vaunted U.S. Girls project hits the highly-fitting Pink Room at YES alongside local buds Virginia Wing, setting an inviting tone for its sea of messy-haired onlookers through a warming night of exploratory, soulful noise-pop.

Said openers, casting menacing red-lit silhouettes, find themselves one-third absent due to food poisoning – a sense of loss suggested by an airy, mournful saxophone, before exploding into booming percussion and piercing, crystalline synths. “Make it louder!” cries vocalist Alice Merida Richards, whose abstract, almost-improvisational lyric couplets mirror the intensity of her wildly-jerking gestures. A string of hits from the group’s excellent 2018 release ‘Ecstatic Arrow’ follow, marrying blocky 80s pop jams, monotone chants, some Moroder-esque keys and rattly industrial beats into an all-consuming tour de force – some defiant chatting couples in the audience notwithstanding. The track Glorious Idea’s repeated refrain of “here is what you want!” almost serves as a cathartic push in response, foisting this densely-crafted and addictively nourishing art out into an undeserving world.

Filling out the room to a deeply satisfying degree, clamour for U.S. Girls just about reaches boiling point before whispers of smoky jazz and spoken word samples usher in some bombastic, glittering disco beats. A seven-strong group fills the stage, ranging from more appreciative sax representation to a frantically wailing dual-guitar freak-out. What firstly appears as the band’s extended free-form jamming is kept in check by tightly-wound vocal and instrument pairings, often with just one strong melody line pinning the entire thing together; this monolithic approach to song construction begs for each track to be dissected and extended into infinity, which is reflected in U.S. Girls’ own past iteration as an avant-garde noise project.

From this point, a number of delectably crafted, desert-tinged psych-pop nuggets are rolled out, one after another – from the thumping, cyclical rhythms of ‘Incidental Boogie’ to the sparse sultriness of ‘Velvet 4 Sale’, and the shamelessly chirpy disco/doo-wop hybrid of ‘M.A.H’. – Remy needn’t even utter a word between them, instead expressing herself through movements and mimes to uproarious audience cheering. She embracingly ventures into the crowd, but her small stature is quickly swallowed, only able to ensure the room of her well-being with her unwavering, beacon-like vocals. The band play on, only intensifying in nature, until the elastic bass-line of ‘Time’ locks into another groove, before wrangling everything back around into one final stomp and endearingly fizzing out. Instruments drop out one by one, leaving a skeletal frame behind, with Remy stood beaming from the stage – hopefully ensuring that this return visit has been entirely worth it.

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