REVIEW: M(h)aol, William Denton Wilde, Tin Ribs @ ZEROX, Newcastle (26.08.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photo By Susan Appleby

Networking is a key skill for any aspirational DIY outfit, and by all accounts it’s one that M(h)aol (pronounced: “male”) have mastered to a tee. This is the first time the Dublin group – breakout leaders of the excellent women-led Tulle Collective – have visited Newcastle, yet come showtime they’ve already acquainted themselves with a cross-section of the city’s independent institutions. The Star and Shadow, The Lit & Phil and KINGBABYBAGELS all receive shout-outs, while singer Róisín Nic Ghearailt appears intent on ending the evening on first name terms with her entire audience.

For the natural grouches among us, the quintet’s perpetual positivity is so relentless it can become a tad wearying. Even so, the momentum it’s engendered feels irrepressible, and with performances as convincing as this it’d be dim – not to mention surly – to resist being dragged along with them.

Spearheaded by material from last year’s Gender Studies EP, the group’s brooding, fretful post-punk faces down the patriarchy with unabated needle and no lack of sonic adventure. Where less imaginative bands would use a two-bass setup simply to overlay the same line of attack, the likemindedness of M(h)aol twin pillars Jamie Hyland and Zoe Greenway never resorts to convergence. Instead, Zoe handles the rhythm while Jamie brings the noise; a respective display of pulse and effect-laden innovation which induces the creeping and distinct sense of anxiety underpinning much of their finest material.

This synergy enters its darkest, most striking territory on Asking for It – in which Róisín addresses a heinous pandemic of gaslighting in the aftermath of sexual violence – but is perhaps best reflected on an as-yet unreleased standout. A sultry groover dripping with lust and permeated by a mixture of giggles and orgasm noises (some more intentional than others!), Period Sex is at once the most explicit and light-hearted moment in a sensational set, offering forceful notice for what’s sure to be one of 2023’s must-hear debut albums.

Also playing their first gig in Newcastle – or anywhere else, for that matter – are Durham-based newcomers Tin Ribs. There’s nothing revelatory in their half-hour premiere, but what they do have is a plethora of winning hooks, tightness to match their breakneck pace and on-stage exuberance to spare – all of which should mark them as popular additions to the region’s punk circuit. William Denton Wilde, meanwhile, is difficult to place within any clique – and that, it seems, is just how he likes things. Setting low-strung bass alongside his trusty drum machine, this characteristically fuzzy helping of droll doom-disco bangers proves once again why he’s such an in-demand opening act. After all, who wouldn’t want to kickstart their weekend with a one-man dose of amiable DIY glam?

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