Edinburgh Theatre

The year 2015-2016 was a big year for me, coming to Edinburgh after working in the Middle East for several years. One of the first things I did was visit the Festival Theatre, where I fell in love with modern dance (I hate dancing, so don’t switch off if you are also not a dancer). Although I intend to continue visiting the Festival, I will also be trying out other venues, for modern dance, drama, ballet and opera.

Queer/trans DIY punk rock: Wormboys and their new EP Smalltime

The three songs that form Smalltime (2023), the new EP by Wormboys, reverberate with the darkened sweat-soaked cellar sound that made their pre-release of the song Tree so attention-grabbing back in 2022. Each song on the Smalltime EP also has its distinct identity, underscoring how Wormboys are much more than just a DIY punk ensemble with an attitude. The electrifying opener, Something pretty, with its pacy, jabbing guitar riff dovetailing with Ruth Pearce's driving bass line, even begins to evoke the early 70s-sound of Black Sabbath with a shift in the guitar’s tone a quarter-way through. A key instrument in this song too is Sop Satchwell’s vocals, manipulated around the melody that in its own, more tightly controlled way echoes The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan.

The second song, the unsettlingly dream-like Worm, represents the gentle shift in mood as well as rhythm. On this occasion, I felt transported to a Seattle sound and a fusion of Nirvana and Soundgarden: the ballad seems almost to invite a Kurt Cobain-like drawling vocal (in fact, belonging to the band’s co-vocalist, Harry Tunnicliffe, backed this time by Satchwell) though the surreal lyrics feel more in keeping with Soundgarden and the dark reframing of suburbia as in the Seattle band’s in/famous Black Hole Sun. ‘Here comes the worm again,’ the Wormboys song informs us, and with this threat germinating in the air, the possibilities of an accompanying video for Worm become a disturbing possibility, not unlike that landmark video for Black Hole Sun in the 90s. Contributing to this uneasy parallel – a ‘worm’-hole between two disturbing grungy nightmare visions, perhaps – are the affected scratches in the mix, as if a claw or squelching carcass is caressing the recording machinery as it’s picking up the sound. Again, it’s the small details that grab me with the Wormboys sound. If this is music from the queer/trans punk scene of Leeds, then Worm also captures something of the streets of David Lynch’s Philadelphia.

The EP’s final song is the one that originally drew me to Wormboys on first hearing in 2022: Tree. Like Something pretty, this is a driving, grinding progression of a rock song, Satchwell’s O’Riordan-like vocals returning breathily and plaintively before rising to the crescendo of Tree’s crashing rhythm sections. There is something cinematic in this song’s tone and the lead-guitar riff runs river-like, a fitting closure to a three-part production that sets up the listener with the EP’s opening burst of Sabbath-meets-grunge, before the gently unsettling second act, and the soaring finale. Overall, Smalltime is an EP revealing a surely brilliant live act, but also a studio band rewarding listeners with shades and gentle details.
Quines Cast at Summerhall - review
Katy Montgomerie at the University of Edinburgh


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Thursday, 30 May 2024

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