WARNING: Lazy comparison and meaningless hyperbole follows. Forward, Russia! are a band that combine the frenetic energy of At The Drive-In and the punk-funk genius of Gang of Four with screaming synths, prog and disco sensibilities. The best thing to come out of Leeds since Aaron Lennon meandered down to White Hart Lane, the LS6 four-piece have launched themselves onto the UK music scene with a series of phenomenal singles that promise to take them to the stratospheric reaches of the charts.
Phew, glad that bit’s over. To explain: screaming orgasms of delight are now mandatory in the media for any review of bands from Leeds so I thought it was best to get it over and done with before the real review, and before I reveal that Forward, Russia! deserve all the hype. They are, to be blunt, shit-hot.
Briefly, FR! are apparently obsessed with two things: Maths – their songs have numbers instead of names – and writing quiveringly taut punk-funk that drips with warbling synths and stream-of-consciousness lyrics. They make the music that Bloc Party and a dozen other XTC clones aim for (and fail) and they do it with an ease that is terrifying.
“17” kickstarted the set, its raucous dynamics and whipcord rhythms setting the tone for an hour of scintillating performance.
For the launch of their new single “12” they couldn’t have chosen anywhere better than their home town. Even with Leeds seemingly over-run by up and coming bands with huge fanbases, Forward, Russia! hold a place in Yorkshire hearts akin to that of The Kaiser Chiefs though with infinitely more elan.
The snarling beast that is “17” kickstarted the set, its raucous dynamics and whipcord rhythms setting the tone for an hour of scintillating performance. The audience, warmed up by the impressive Komakino, dived gleefully over the edge of reason and into a fit of delirious, moshing adoration. For the first, and possibly only, time the band played two of their songs in succession, with the frantically energetic “18” picking up where “17” had left off thirty seconds before. Vocalist Tom’s Cedric Bixler-esque stage antics – strangling himself with the microphone cable seems to be his particular fetish – gave a visual impetus to Whiskas’ razor-sharp guitar lines and Katie’s exquisitely tight drumming.
Sandwiched between two impeccable drummer-led tracks, new single “12” demonstrated exactly why Forward, Russia! are destined for great things: off-kilter lyrics and vocals backed by an energy that’s frightening. With choruses and little hooks bursting out at all sorts of odd angles, this is the sort of music that shouldn’t make sense but does. Musically they pull ideas from all over the place but with none of the self-regarding ideological baggage of their contemporaries.
a melange of echoing guitar riffs, piercing synths, furious disco time-signatures with howled vocals and stage-diving
“15”, one of FR!’s weaker tunes, started off trying to batter down the door into your brain only to stray into what seems like bland Bloc Party territory. This being Forward, Russia! though, it quickly escalated into a melange of echoing guitar riffs, piercing synths, furious disco time-signatures with howled vocals and stage-diving from Tom. The (relatively) slow and serene “7” and “13” showcased their ability to write tunes that don’t all sound like pure sexual aggression, though it didn’t stop the audience writhing around. As slowdowns go it was a brief interlude – teasing foreplay to the vicious onslaught of “11”, which, all crushing drums and crunching guitar, was a masterclass in head-down freaking out, electrifying the venue with screaming vocals and unsettling dynamics.
Coming back onstage for the one-song encore of “14” – and seriously, they’re that good they only need one encore – the band sent a final, furious blow in the direction of an audience already punch-drunk on the music. Breathless hyperbole on my part? Perhaps. They’re only words but I swear I’ll eat them if Forward, Russia! don’t live up to this. Go and see them and judge for yourselves: I defy you not to love them.