Lice – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton – 23rd May 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

It’s been a pretty good few months for satirical art-punk troupe Lice , all things considered. Not only did they go on a mammoth tour with Bristol brethren Idles, but Idles frontman Joe Talbot signed them to his brand-new label Balley Records as his first ever act. There’s no wonder they called their first release under the label It All Worked Out Great, which they well and truly launched with a thunderous show at The Hope & Ruin on Wednesday night. Electrifying, mischievous and incredibly fun, they’re a terrific live outfit who, importantly, seem to mean something and stand defiantly for it.

Opening on the night were Ditz, who are fast becoming Brightonsfinest favourites, due to their electrifying performances at the likes of Spectrum and Queen Zee last month. There’s a sonic rhythm to the band that is utterly spellbinding, but it’s frontman Cal that is the most impressive aspect. Whether he’s wandering between the crowd, sauntering between his band mates, or energetically singing under his locks of bright blonde hair, he’s a dynamic presence and one that you find it difficult to take your eyes off.

Likewise, London three-piece Girls In Synthesis provided a intransigent take on rock and roll that was essentially a visceral assault on the ears. They were also a lot of fun, however, as they made use of the smaller crowd to perform most of their set in the middle of The Hope & Ruin as the crowd surrounded them in a circle. I hadn’t previously heard of Girls In Synthesis, but it’s certainly not a name I’m going to forget any time soon. As support slots go this is as impressive as it gets.

“Joe Talbot from Idles signed us to his record label. Fuck knows why” Lice frontman Alastair Shuttleworth declared halfway through their enthralling Brighton show. It’s this very attitude that make LICE so appealing: they’re a fantastically tight, captivating live presence, who don’t really seem to care that much at all. Throughout, whether it’s the likes of ‘Ted’s Dead’ or ‘Little John Waynes’, they’re having fun up on the stage, enjoying every moment but, at the same time, it’s erratic, to the point, and feels important.

Of course, one of the most impressive elements to the Lice live show is frontman Alastair Shuttleworth, who showcased energy and animation in bundles. Throughout the gig, he fervently peered down the end of his microphone, across the crowd, and at times entering the action, almost demanding that the crowd throw themselves around to his music. It’s hard not to, naturally, with the frenzied and vivacious ‘Stammering Bill’ and it’s dog-eyed conviction in pure barbarity. It’s with ‘The Human Parasite’, though, where the band almost perfectly slots into place. The song encapsulates all of the band’s great elements; their technical proficiency, with dirty riffs aplenty, as well as the ability to create a hysterical atmosphere, as the band were at their captivating best.

Probably due to Great Escape fatigue, the crowd was disappointingly small for this show. It’s a shame because it was a showcase of three bands on the top of their game, distilling the type of intensity and free-flowing creativity that exhibits that guitar music is thriving in the underground. Potent, angry and increasingly fervent, this was an uplifting, fun and near-perilous show where anything and everything could, and did, happen. Tonight was just what the doctor ordered to escape those Great Escape blues: sonic goodness in the form of LICE, Girls In Synthesis and DITZ.

Liam McMillen