At a CMJ show last October at Arlene’s, Pins had the misfortune of taking the stage on the heels of a searing, politically-charged performance by the brilliant and charismatic Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires. To their credit, the women in the Manchester, UK band – who come across as something akin to the bastard child of the early Go Go’s and Wire – held their own and managed not to be anticlimactic. The cheap advance tix for their midnight show tonight at Rough Trade are all gone, but it’s not sold out, general admission is a reasonable $12 and the L train is running, so you can get home afterward if you don’t live in Williamsburg. And who among us is still in that hideously gentrified part of town, anyway?
Pins’ new album, Wild Nights – streaming at Spotify – is considerably more polished than their stage show. Then again, they’re a lot more likely to strip the songs down and rock them out live than try to match the heft and bulk of the production. The opening track, Baby Bhangs takes a downtown NYC gutter blues riff and works around it, propelled by drummer Sophie Galpin’s artful blend of swing and stomp. “We’re not trying to be great, we don’t wanna be saved,” guitarist/frontwoman Faith Vern intones matter-of-factly in Young Girls. But she’s nothing if not optimistic: “What will we do when our dreams come true?” she asks, over a chugging one-chord post-Velvets groove.
Bassist Lois Macdonald’s terse lead lines cut through the jangly nocturnal mist of Curse These Dreams. The album’s longest track, Oh Lord nicks a familiar Joy Division riff and builds a similarly hypnotic ambience, the guitars of Vern and Anna Donigan building a reverbtoned resonance. Likewise, Dazed By You sets a skittishly jangly early Go Go’s-style tune to a She’s Lost Control beat – and a really cool, surprisie ending. And the catchy, crescendoing House of Love works a minimalist, watery/gritty Unknown Pleasures dichotomy.
Got It Bad builds an echoey, repeaterbox-driven Lynchian soul ballad vibe: it wouldn’t be out of place in the catalog of fellow Brit Gemma Ray. Too Little Too Late, described by the band as “a middle-finger-to-the-world kind of song,” is a kiss-off number, a wall of distorted guitars and organ behind Macdonald’s catchy basslines, up to another trick ending.
If Only brings back the Lynchian pop sonics, post doo-wop melody lit up by blue-neon reverb guitar. Molly – a coy shout-out to the drug – sways along in a Black Angels-style garage-psych vein: “You look so good when you’re sad,” is the mantra. The album winds up with the mutedly brooding Everyone Says. Critical reaction to this album has been mixed – some have said that it lacks the punk spontaneity of their debut. But for all that defiant energy, at that point they could barely write or play their instruments: this is a strong step forward and a good late-night listen.