When Let’s Eat Grandma released their second album ‘I’m All Ears’ four years ago, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth were reliving the critical fanfare around their 2016 debut ‘I,Gemini’. The rising duo were set to tour the US in 2019 until the death of Hollingworth’s boyfriend, 22-year-old songwriter Billy Clayton, put their plans on hold.
A heartbroken Hollingsworth – who has been writing songs with her childhood friend Walton since they were 13 – later told The Guardian that she couldn’t summon the will to create new music for a year. Spending some time apart, Walton and Hollingworth eventually came to write separately for the first time. The result is new album ‘Two Ribbons’, which arrives this April following a three-year absence from releasing music and performing live.
The palpable anticipation and large turn-out for the band’s comeback London show is testament to their staying power. And it’s not surprising: Let’s Eat Grandma have produced some of the most original and bewitching alt-pop music of the past half decade.
Unsurprisingly, tonight’s show is weighted heavily in favour of new material. Perhaps it’s nerves after time away, but the duo’s latest single ‘Happy New Year’ – an undulating synth-pop ode to their friendship – is noticeably flat and feels under-rehearsed. ‘Falling Into Me’ from ‘I’m All Ears’, however, improves on these early wobbles. Hollingworth pulling out her sax and Walton raving with the crowd to the song’s decaying loops of folktronica beats and melodies is invigorating.
The duo’s more kinetic numbers come off best tonight. New song ‘Levitation’, a party synth stomper of despair turned into hope, sees Walton and Hollingworth singing arm-in-arm on one of their poppiest outings to date. Elsewhere, the subwoofer growls and industrial samples of the PC Music-indebted ‘Hot Pink’ (co-produced by the late SOPHIE) are exhilarating live, bolstered by improved vocal performances.
On another ‘Two Ribbons’ cut, ‘Watching You Go’, Hollingsworth takes centre stage to sing about the impotence grief can bring. “I want to shed myself and lay back in the earth sometimes,” Hollingsworth bellows, shrinking to her knees as liquid ‘90s synths and propulsive beats (performed by tonight’s backing musicians, alongside Walton) carry her emotional display.
In truth, tonight is a mixed affair. It veers between cuts like ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ and ‘Two Ribbons’ – which feel awkward, or sound slightly off – to total sea changes such as the perfectly choreographed playground hand-clapping and rich, slow-mo trippiness of ‘Deep Six Textbook’. Set closer ‘Donnie Darko’ goes one better, as Walton and Hollingworth crawl (quite literally) on stage; playing recorders, synths and guitars for a fun hands-in-the-air closing raver.
Let’s Eat Grandma might still appear to be fine-tuning things, but there’s no doubt that they’ve got the writing chops and brilliant new songs with which to build on this early showing. When they hit their stride tonight, they’re unstoppable.
Let’s Eat Grandma played:
‘Happy New Year’
‘Falling Into Me’
‘Hall Of Mirrors’
‘Watching You Go’
‘Deep Six Textbook’