A five-piece band that is signed by a Manchester-based independent record label, Death to the Strange is certainly not a band to overlook. With some high profile support slots such as James Walsh and Babyshambles and having their own mention from Joy Division’s Peter Hook the band have clearly worked hard at their music to get themselves this far.
Gig-goers of Manchester and Salford will be familiar with the band, which have been gracing the stages, pubs and back rooms of the two cities for several years and are now gaining the attention they want and deserve. On paper, Death to the Strange could be just another young northern outfit – picking up threads from the likes of The La’s and The Coral, their tracks sprinkled with fifties riffs, harmonies and references to being down-and-out and on the dole. However, paper isn’t music and Death to the Strange aren’t reliving the past. Rather, the ballsy Salford five-piece are in the business of deconstructing their influences and mixing the parts they like with their oddball well-honed sound.
Although the band attracted a predominantly elder crowd, it was obvious from the outset that this was going to be an upbeat and energetic gig. Death to the Strange are an arguably small, yet big band; in the sense that they do not have a huge following but the following that they do have is extremely loyal and enough to keep them going year in, year out.
Escorted on stage by nurses, with shackles over his body and a bag over his head lead singer Daniel Clarke set a morbid tone, only to be uplifted by the band themselves. From their opening song the band create the sort of melodic music that feels familiar, urging the audience to sing along even if they don’t know all the words. Lyrically, Death to the Strange are a band with reasons to make music. However, rather than adopt a solely political agenda, using their art as a vessel for discontent, songs such as “Openshaw Blues” are laced with plain fun and the type of wit that grows from nurturing your underdog roots.
Taking to the stage in casual attire there was a real sense of homeliness. Rather than watching the gig through shaky camera phones and updating Facebook status’ to let everyone know they’re having a good time, the fans embraced the experience, conversing with each other and standing arm in arm throughout. EP track “Drink and the Devil”, a regular feature on the band’s live appearances, welcomed a hammer-horror, echoing vocal and twisty rifts, showcasing a fun showpiece of the band’s catalogue.
A statement of discontent expressed through sarcasm comes from “Sign On” which hones the spirit of punk rock with three-chord rock n’roll. The catchy tune raised not only the pints of most of those in the crowd but also inspired the greatest sing-along. As the set came to an end it was striking how fast that hour had passed. The raw energy of the whole performance reflected off in everyone around.
Death to the Strange have managed to stay true to their instincts, with some enjoyable nonsense, snatches of full-on harmonies and the odd werewolf howl, creating something worth getting excited about.