Spinning Coin – Rialto Theatre, Brighton – 21st March 2018

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

Glasgow has a rich musical history, particularly within the indie-pop world where a series of seminal bands dominated the pages of the NME throughout the 80s and 90s. Spinning Coin are but the latest in that long line, though they are far more than a homage to their geographical ancestors as their debut, Permo, proved last year. After a successful spot at last year’s The Great Escape, they returned to Brighton once more at the Rialto Theatre with support from one of the most electric Brighton bands out there.

You know what you are going to get with Porridge Radio, no matter what the stage or the environment. Singer and lyricist Dana Margolin was on fine form tonight, lulling the unfamiliar into a false sense of security with the stunning post-punk ‘Pop Song’ before unleashing the full force of that incredibly intense stage persona with ‘I Hope She’s OK’ and ‘Go Away’. As she doubled over screaming with both rage and passion, it’s easy to overlook just what an accomplished band this is. Far more than just sheer noise, there is a real intelligence to the way that their songs build as the slinky bass to ‘Eugh’ and the crashing crescendo to ‘Lilac’ proved once again. As their set ended to a momentarily stunned silence from the crowd, it was yet another piece of evidence that Porridge Radio are one of the most treasured bands on the Brighton scene.

It was a strange atmosphere that met Spinning Coin as they took to the stage, with a deathly silence settling over the room that could only have proved off-putting for the Glasgow band. With nothing more than a brief hello and introduction, the main set got underway with the call-to-arms of ‘Powerful’ and its message that: “In an old man’s world, you are still powerful”. The split-personality appeal of the band is only heightened live, with the constant rotation of Jack Mellin and Sean Armstrong on vocals adding a unique feel to the show – the more abrasive voice of Mellin mixing with Armstrong’s songs, that dance and float along a different path in their wispiness and fragility.

There have been countless comparisons with classic Glaswegian bands of the past ever since Spinning Coin appeared on the scene. While there is definitely more than a hint of their former tour mates Teenage Fanclub about them, tonight it was the other side of the Atlantic that seemed more relevant. The lo-fi guitar jangling summoned up memories of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr., but the way that they use these influences are all their own. ‘Sides’ took off towards the end, and brought the crowd out of their sleepy state and at last loosened up some dancing limbs – but a stilted stage presence meant that a hush soon returned. That same awkward silence descended between each song, due to a combination of a crowd too polite to chat and a band seemingly too intent on checking what was next on the set list. On the early part of the show, it had the effect of halting any build in atmosphere or mood which was a real shame for the band.

There was as much attention given to older songs as new, despite the relative success of their debut Permo. The biggest reaction to the first half of the show came for old favourite ‘The Long Heights’, though you would have to be a fan to know what was being played as there were no introductions – a minor gripe, but with so little of their back catalogue available online there will have been a few walking away not knowing the names of their favourite tracks on the night. Although the constant back-and-forth between Armstrong and Mellin was jarring at points, there were enough moments where everything came together perfectly to make up for it. ‘Tin’ and ‘Money For Breakfast’ were prime examples, Mellin’s vocals on the former being counterbalanced by a classic (and incredibly catchy) indie jangly-guitar sound from the rest of the band. During the latter, it was as if Neil Young had briefly joined Pavement for a quick jam (and was just as good as that sounds).

Finally hitting their stride, ‘Magdalene’ was like a different band altogether, as its heavy riff broke out at its finale before a gorgeous closing ‘Raining On Hope Street’ – giving a completely different feel to the final parts of the show that allowed Spinning Coin to snatch a partial victory from the night. It would have been great to see them in front of a more riotous audience to see how different the atmosphere could have been, but of course the band need to inspire those scenes for themselves. Those are questions for another time though, and this may just have been one of those occasional shows on a tour which are survived rather than conquered. All in all, there was just enough here to justify some of those plaudits and to keep the coin spinning on.

Jamie MacMillan

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