Public Practice – ‘Gentle Grip’ review: NYC disco-punks dream of a sparklier world on sublime debut

New York group's debut is a hedonistic journey fit to soundtrack the grimiest of DIY discos

If Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’ has been the quarantine balm of pop’s mainstream, the debut album from New York disco-punks Public Practice should take up that mantle for the underground.

Recorded largely in guitarist Vince McClelland’s home studio, it gives an alternative to Lipa’s super-polished pop take on the shimmying sounds of the ‘70s, feeling delightfully handmade as it struts through 12 sublime tracks that transport you out of the four walls of your home and into a world much sparklier, sweatier and fun.

‘My Head’ is the record’s escapist centrepiece, an ode to shutting out external noise the rides a syncopated groove and layers it with one of the catchiest choruses shared so far this year. “Where does this vision go?” frontwoman Sam York asks. “Shouting voices so misled/It turns out they were in my head.” ‘Cities’, dominated by Drew Citron’s bright bass, takes a trip to Berlin, York’s bandmates mirroring her words with their instruments as she sings of “jagged edges” and light “shining down so brightly”.

‘Gentle Grip’ presents some conundrums for both listeners and the band themselves. In its subject matter, it ruminates on the “moral gymnastics” of life in 2020 – one where we’re trying to do our best for the world around us, but are also still driven by material wants and desires. The early Blondie gleam of ‘Compromised’ finds York torn between the two sides over tumbling guitar hooks, spinning circles around herself as she whispers: “House is important/Car is important/Shoes are important […] Trees are important.

Sonically, though, the album is also a puzzle – namely, where on earth is it going to go next? That unpredictability exists as it changes from track to track but also within each individual song themselves. Opener ‘Moon’ is a dark, swirling piece that puts Public Practice’s love of the theatrical at the forefront, York presiding like a mythical higher being over a thunderstorm of drummer Scott Rosenthal’s beats and McClelland and Citron’s spiralling, spiky accompaniments. Later, ‘Disposable’ metamorphoses from chunky Rapture riffs ready to soundtrack the grimiest of DIY discos to something more fragmented and eerie, like morning sun piercing through warehouse windows and shaking you out of party mode.

‘Gentle Grip’ doesn’t let you return to the real world for too long though, continuing on its ever-surprising journey through irresistible grooves and glittering masterpieces of invention. We might not be able to hit a proper dancefloor for some time but, with their debut album, Public Practice are urging us all to push the furniture aside and find relief in the space we’ve got. Don’t let their call go unanswered.


Release date: May 15

Record label: Wharf Cat