“This is quite relevant for these times!” wryly notes Sink Ya Teeth’s captivating vocalist Maria Uzor, launching into debut single ‘If You See Me’: ‘I feel a little depressed / A little melancholy at best‘.
In a packed 250-capacity basement sweatbox, the audience are dancing through the current dystopia. Though the duo hail from Norwich, Sink Ya Teeth (who hit headlines last year when the DIY band unexpectedly found themselves headlining a 30,000-capacity festival) look and sound like they’ve tumbled through a wormhole from early-’80s New York, recalling the punk-funk of no-wave artists such as ESG and Liquid Liquid. Uzor throws joyous, ineffably cool dance shapes that wouldn’t be out of place in the city’s iconic, now-closed Club 57 – to the point where you half expect Keith Haring to wander onstage and start doodling on Gemma Cullingford’s bass.
Having supported spiritual forebears A Certain Ratio on tour (ACR’s Martin Moscrop DJs before them tonight, and beams appreciably throughout their set), Uzor declares Manchester their “second home”. The brilliantly up-for-it crowd contains a fair few members who look like they went out for a night at the The Haçienda’s queer club night Flesh 30 years ago and haven’t quite made it back home yet.
Opening with the itchy bassline and sparse synths of ‘Shut Down’ and the LCD Soundsystem-inspired ‘The Hot House’, Sink Ya Teeth are here touring their recent (excellent) second album ‘Two’, which sees them lean further into their early Chicago house influences while maintaining their emotional resonance. Uzor’s vocal effortlessly switches throughout from deadpan (such as on ‘On the One’, where she sounds like Grace Jones surveying a party from the comfort of a chaise longue) to defiant.
“Oi! Play ‘Stella’!” heckles a crowd member, before the band play that self-same song, which sees Uzor weave a tale of a threatening neighbour over techno beats that sound like they could have been on the Streets Of Rage 2 soundtrack. ‘Petrol Blue’, from their 2018 self-titled debut, turns the gig into a raucous 3am rave, while the sinister ‘The Rapture’ – an apt title considering world events – is what might happen if the noughties dance-punk band of the same name covered John Carpenter.
This is followed by the elastic groove of ‘The Vaccine’ – another eerily salient moniker in light of the current news cycle – while the discordant ‘Sweetness’ sees them switching things up, with Culliford assuming whispered vocal duties while Uzor plays guitar.
As they’re leaving the stage after the irresistible groove of ‘Friends’, heckles abound for “More!”, with a good-naturedly lairy call of, “Come on you work-shy bastards!”. Uzor takes off her handbag and they launch into a victory lap of ‘Pushin” with its ear-worm chorus calls of “Hallelujah!”. The message is thrillingly clear: Manchester can recognise a band that understands the perfect collision of electronics and rock, and they’re keen not to let the party end.
Sink Ya Teeth played:
‘The Hot House’
‘On The One’
‘If You See Me’