A burst of nine songs in less than 40 minutes makes up a typical set by The Orielles. And about a quarter of that is taken up by just one final song — a monster called ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’. It’s the sort of song that makes an encore impossible, so the three-piece from Halifax don’t bother with any postscripts to the set at north London’s hot and sweaty The Finsbury pub.
They begin by smashing straight into ‘Mango’ — buzzing, thrumming and throbbing through the repetitively poppy verses, sung by bassist Esme Dee Hand-Halford. The Wheatus classic ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ springs to mind and the song ends with a short jam, Henry Carlyle Wade’s echoing lo-fi guitar reaching ever higher pitches while Esme’s bass is rock solid.
“Thank you for coming down tonight. It’s a Friday, so let’s have a boogie,” Henry says ahead of ‘Just Like Glue’. Esme’s melodic bass underpins the track, anchored by sister Sidonie’s banging drums, allowing Henry’s buzzing reverb guitar to embellish it with a ’60s bubble-gum garage rock sound — “whuh uh oh”. ‘Hiraeth’ careers along like a clown car playing Orange Juice on the stereo, Henry on his knees trashing one guitar after another until he settles on a third, which luckily keeps going to the end of the night. Esme keeps her ace bass on point. The post-garage of ‘Jobin’ is reminiscent of the brilliant Hinds as it bounces along — the guitar jangling to the lines “No I don’t even wanna know now brother, no I don’t even wanna know now sister”.
‘Liminal Space’ slows the tempo, with a country and western twang and steady almost ’50s bass line feeding into a brilliantly restrained guitar solo. The waltzing track stops dead twice, bouncing back like a tense spring before seeming to end satisfyingly mid-riff.
Songs by The Orielles have that elusive earworm quality that many older bands spend ages chasing unsuccessfully. ‘48%’ is a hummable track with a message, a boogie and a bop. The twisted guitar on ‘Krewcut’ contrasts with a steady rock ’n’ roll bass and “ooh, ooh, ooh” vocals, and Henry is bent double over his instrument, thrashing it. The crowd responds to the track’s danceability, as Esme sings American accented choruses of “oh well, oh well”. Henry picks out a smart guitar solo then the tune slows right down — his guitar throughout is engaged in a gripping dialogue with Esme’s bass.
The guitar playing on ‘Joey Says We Got It’ moves from strumming to picking, to psych, arpeggios and scales, but it’s on ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ that the full breadth of guitar virtuosity gets space — almost 10 minutes of intensely varied wizardry. Before this last song, Henry makes an apology to diehard fans about the absence from the set of new single ‘I Only Bought It For The Bottle’: “We haven’t played it since we recorded it, so if you come to our next London show we’ll play it.”
The Quentin Tarantino-inspired ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ is a genuine epic, fusing deep bass and drums sounding like Hawkwind with a spaced-out guitar tour de force. After the track goes through its third or fourth ska-infused riff repetition, Sidonie hits the cowbell to mimic one of the guitar lines, allowing Henry to drop that riff and shred instead. The percussionist continues to shine, smacking the middle of her cymbals in the song’s penultimate phase while Henry goes crazy and takes the piece into the breakdown, then restarting the song with a fierce whack of her drums. Henry and Esme play opposite each other, close up — her bass keeping the whole track going like Tina Weymouth on a Talking Heads workout as it first speeds up manically, then turns heavy, faster, slower, back to the heavy groove and, finally, mutates into a garage or surf rock guitar sound akin to The Cramps. It’s worth seeing The Orielles soon, just to experience this track while it’s fresh. The new single, when they’re ready to play it, can only be a bonus.