Modest to a fault, Steven Adams explains while tuning up that his band’s performances start awkwardly, only relaxing at the end, so everyone feels short changed.
With such acerbic jibes, the singer/guitarist may have developed an eccentric take on showmanship, though he is always entertaining between numbers.
Adams has much experience on this front, having previously led Broken Family Band, the sort of group described as cult for their lack of commercial success. They folded in 2009 after the release of five long-players, though less than a year later Adams put together a new four-piece. Singing Adams is something of an indie supergroup with members from outfits such as Absentee and Saloon, so they boast enough pedigree to take a break from the studio, where they are back recording, to headline at this Islington pub the first night of independent label Fortuna Pop’s Winter Sprinter gig series.
They also bear the sparky tunes of debut album Everybody Friends Now, released in 2011. Melinda Bronstein’s deft drum patterns and Matthew Ashton’s simple guitar fills counterbalance Adams’ dry delivery and bitter take on life. ‘Old Days’ has him in the role of a faded has-been, too despondent to be truly autobiographical, while Michael Wood carries its tune high up his bass’s fretboard. There is a similar bruised sensibility to The Leisure Society, though with more brooding resentment.
Another difference is that Singing Adams bring none of that that more feted group’s delicate adornments, with a resolute dedication to the sort of meat-and-two-veg guitar pop that could have been made any time in the past two decades. This means several tunes pass by pleasantly without lasting impact, their building blocks sounding too familiar, even ‘Elisabeth Frink’ with its harsh instrumental break lacks sufficient contrast. More recent material, though, suggests the group are finding their own direction.
‘Building A Wall’ has greater intensity than previous tunes, while another unfamiliar number with the refrain “Let’s start again instead of giving up” shows their writer finding a more optimistic mindset. As if to fulfil Adams’ earlier prediction, there is a wonderful finale where he notes the band have breached the venue’s curfew, so plays the last song quietly. He leans away from the microphone and towards his rapt audience; with responsive backing his unamplified vocal adds a hurt vulnerability to ‘Injured Party’. What came before was not necessarily awkward, but this kind of magic would be rare anywhere.