The Louisiana, Bristol | November 8th
Stockholm four-piece Holograms have emerged from 2012 as an intimidating prospect. Their self-titled debut album revels in a range of new-wave punk party tricks, frequently dazzling and memorable, yet pockmarked with a decidedly bleak lifeview.
Commanding an enviable crowd, first up are support act Eagulls: a bunch of buzzed up Northern bastards who have the cheek to stumble into our neck of the woods armed with about seven songs which sound like The Lemonheads if they had a propensity for sniffing glue.
Powering through cuts from their recent, excellent EP including Coffin Song, Moulting and Still Born – complete with ever-so-triumphant, single-note closing riff – alongside 2011 single Council Flat Blues and the irresistible Possessed from their split with Mazes, this is a serious display. The five-piece are forceful yet imbued with an enjoyable slacker charm, vocalist George Mitchell refusing steadfastly to remove his left hand from the pocket of his duffle coat for the first half of the set, as the other dangles the mic cockily in front of his sneering chops. They may not have a vast arsenal of tricks up their collective sleeves, but this young band do mid-paced melodic punk rock squall terribly well.
Holograms immediately greet us with a wave of piercing feedback, a sound which accompanies much of the set, adding an overwhelming discordance which makes a finger in the ear a near-necessity, at least until we adjust. There’s something deeply stony and cold, almost detached in the way these young men approach their music. They thrash at their instruments with accuracy and disdain, and through the aching, embittered howls of Monolith, the jerky Stress and the anthemic Orpheo, from stolid bassist Andreas Lagestrom to the terse rhythms of drummer Anton Strandberg, there is an unmistakeable severity on display.
Having emerged from grim backgrounds, working their hands raw in their hometown’s freezing warehouses in order to scrape together the cash to become Holograms, the tales of overwhelming surliness which have already begun to accompany the band are in no way overstated. This is as stern a bunch of boys as you could ever hope to see. It’s hard to tell whether the band are appreciative or disgruntled by the bouts of spirited pogoing breaking out amidst the front rows. Synth player Filip Spetze’s spontaneous crowdsurfing and guitarist Anton Spetze’s decision to leap out into the throng are hints that they don’t necessarily dislike everyone in the room, even if he does chuck his guitar-heft around a bit more fervently than is entirely necessary.
But this is no criticism. Music is a serious matter to these young men, and there’s something curiously brilliant about performing such innately fun songs as Chasing My Mind and ABC City with such apparent disdain, lit up as they are with familiar, new-wave synth lines and barked, Oi-style vocals. While it’s easy to have fun at a Holograms show, the band themselves treat punk rock as a concrete, tangible life choice. And while there’s much to admire in Eagulls’ fickle-limbed, borderline passive flailing at strings, the intensity in the Swedish headliners’ eyes tells you they’d rather die than fuck up this chance.
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Words: Geraint Davies