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Slutface, The Sebright Arms, review: ‘Plenty of riot grrrl attitude’

PUBLISHED: 17:46 03 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:18 09 March 2016

Slutface performed at Bethnal Green's The Sebright Arms on Tuesday night. Picture: William Glandberger

Slutface performed at Bethnal Green's The Sebright Arms on Tuesday night. Picture: William Glandberger

Archant

Slutface. No, I’m not insulting you – it’s the name of Norway’s newest, and coolest, export, who have already created a huge buzz in indie circles in the short time they have been around.

I confess I had never heard of the four-piece before Tuesday, when I descended into The Sebright Arms’ intimate basement gig space in Haggerston, but any band with a name like that has to produce music that’s at least interesting, if not good – right?

And doubtless I was not the only one amongst the crowd who was there for the very same reason.

So not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised when fast-paced and jangling pop-punk guitar riffs began and the group launched into Angst: a catchy, two-and-a-half-minute-long “screw you” .

American-born vocalist Haley Shea roars “go to hell” with such venom, but unfortunately these are the only words I can pick out through the massive wall of noise created by drummer Halvard Skeie Wiencke, bassist Lasse Lokøy, and guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad.

Later, I look up the song’s lyrics, and find it’s a feminist anthem.

Shea spits: “Take your misogyny, And your fake ideals, Take your wet dreams, And your ‘I feels’”, and I feel empowered just reading it. Imagine the reaction it could have provoked in the crowd if we’d been able to hear those words on the night.

A name like Slutface doesn’t exactly lend itself to the feminist cause, but there’s plenty of riot grrrl attitude in Shea’s delivery and the band’s lyrics, which hum with pop culture references.

Their first few tracks, including the slightly slower-paced Bright Lights, are classic indie numbers, and sound like songs pulled together in university halls – which is probably not far from the truth.

But as the night goes on, their newer material signals that they’re undoubtedly heading in a much poppier direction.

New single, Kill ‘Em With Kindness, with its mantra of “Light it up, light it up,” sticks in my head for days afterwards, while standout track, Shave Your Head, is a biting homage to female independence.

“I’d never shave my head for you,” screams Shea, in what feels like the last straw after a series of escalating demands from a man.

Despite not having a hugely loyal following (yet), there’s even an attempt at audience participation.

Shea called on us to repeat the eponymous refrain from Bad Party, after she manically sing-speaks into the microphone.

No-one has drunken enough to take part, but the fact the group even tried with a crowd of roughly 50 people is testament to the high energy levels of this powerhouse band.

The music is exciting and empowering, and I left thinking that soon, the crowds will be there for those catchy riffs and witty, feminist lyrics, rather than just because the band’s name caught their eye in the listings.

4/5 stars.


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