It’s unusual to go into a gig and have your expectations overturned by the band during the course of the evening.
Citizens! debut album Here We Are is an artfully constructed pop record. The band strike a cool pose and maintain it throughout the album’s 38 minutes. Live, however, they’re quite a different proposition.
King Tut’s is unusually full when youthful support act, Swim Deep, take to the stage. They seem to have attracted a few enthusiastic female followers to the venue. On top of that there is also a significant contingent of Chinese people carrying cameras.
The bass features really heavily in Swim Deep’s melodic take on noise rock. The music is impressively sophisticated throughout. The lyrics could maybe do with a bit of work and the singer could stand to lose his tambourine, which is barely audible above the rest of the band and feels a bit like an affectation. These niggles aside, the band are undoubtedly a prospect for the future and well worth checking out.
Bizarrely, the Chinese part of the audience decide to leave after Swim Deep’s set, ensuring that the hall is less full for the headliners than it was for the warm up act.
Nevertheless, Citizens! receive a warm welcome from the remaining audience, including as it does the Scottish friends and family of two of the band’s members. They launch into Caroline, the most upbeat and poppy track on the album. In performance it feels more energetic than on record, but no more than you’d expect from a decent band playing live.
The revelation comes with their second track, Reptile. On record this is quite a restrained number in keeping with most of the rest of the album. Live, they burst the song from its constraints with punky guitars creating a much more energetic, engaging experience.
The energy is maintained throughout the following songs. Love You More has its heavy percussion brought more to the fore. Monster really does sound like a monster. The closer, I’m In Love With Your Girlfriend, sounds more like the slightly unhinged song it should have been on the album.
The production of the album feels like the band are trying almost too hard to be cool. In performance they feel like they’re being themselves and the songs expand into a more natural shape. There is no doubting the ability of Citizens! as musicians. Their album isn’t necessarily the best advert for their talents.
The people who ducked out before Citizens! took to the stage missed out on seeing what a potentially important new band are capable of. If you’re in a position to catch them at a festival or a club over the summer then take the opportunity. I doubt you’ll regret it.