“This song goes out to Andy Gill, the guitarist of Gang of Four who recently passed away,” says The Wants frontman Madison Velding-VanDam, before launching into ‘Clearly A Crisis’, which fittingly recalls the Gang’s propulsive 1982 track ‘To Hell With Poverty’. Paying tribute to the hometown hero, he enthuses: “He’s from Leeds, he played here, he changed guitar music for everyone.”
Channeling the late musician’s angular punk-funk, The Wants’ music conveys their love of the brooding intensity of bands such as Depeche Mode (appropriately, Velding-VanDam is even sporting a pair of leather chaps that could have been stolen from Dave Gahan’s wardrobe) and Manchester’s Factory stable, which they combine with the dance nous of fellow New Yorkers LCD Soundsystem. Dressed in black with Stanley blade-cheekbones and staring at the crowd with flamethrower eyes, the trio resemble a vintage Anton Corbijn photo sprung to life. Helmed by two-thirds of Brooklyn art-punks Bodega – Velding-VanDam and bassist Heather Elle – and completed by drummer Jason Gates, tonight’s laudably free show serves as a blistering half-hour primer for their impressive forthcoming debut album, ‘Container’, and firmly plants their flag as ones to watch.
Opening with instrumental ‘Ramp’, they play with a coiled-spring intensity, with Velding-VanDam wrestling with his guitar like a snake-charmer attempting to force a serpent back into a pot. The likes of the declaiming dystopian-disco of ‘Nuclear Party’ and ‘Fear My Society’ are riven with 2020s anxiety and sardonic lyrics, while ‘Container’ – named after the shipping container which houses their studio – locks into a The Rapture-style groove. The frantic goth-rave of ‘The Motor’, which takes its cue from David Lynch’s ‘Lost Highway’ soundtrack, inspires dancing, and ‘Ape Trap’ shares a doomy, desolate DNA with early Interpol.
‘Clearly a Crisis’, meanwhile, sees Velding-VanDam screaming, ‘I have no intimacy! I’m never vulnerable!‘, while his ‘Gang of Four’ Leeds love-in even extends to him beaming: “I’ve always wanted to play this room. This is one of the greatest rock rooms in all of the world.”
Despite post-punk sonic signifiers, The Wants never sound like an exercise in pastiche. Instead, with uniformly taut hooks, the band play hell for leather (chaps), coalescing influencs into their own winning sound. At just 30 minutes, there’s a teasing leave-them-wanting-more feel about tonight, but it’s more than enough to thrillingly suggest bigger things await.
The Wants played:
‘Fear My Society’
‘Island of Cells’
‘Clearly a Crisis’
– The Wants’ debut album ‘Container’ is released via Council Records on March 13