The Castle, Oldham Street, Manchester
8th November 2013
Mancunian stargazers and psychedelic upstarts Purple Heart Parade played a show in their home city last week. Louder Than War’s Jason Wynne was there to see it.
I remember going to watch Exit Calm at Carsons Bar in Middleton and amongst the stellar support acts was a band called Purple Heart Parade (PHP). They stuck in my mind that night and I thought to myself “I must see this band again”.
A couple of days later and I was fortunate enough to do just that – at tonight’s venue – The Castle. Again, they blew me away with their cosmic assault and wall of sound so, for the third time, I felt compelled to go back for their headline show promoting their new single Painting Pictures – and to confirm if they really are a band on the up…to the stars and back.
After great sets from local legend Nolan (formerly The Second Floor) and the accomplished Bristol-based upstarts Towns, the scene was set for the main act – stargazers extraordinaire PHP. This five-piece are clearly getting themselves noticed on the re-emerging psych scene. Tonight the stage is decked out with weird and wonderful trinkets complete with fairy lights. Instead of a Manchester pub it feels like some little bar far out there in the solar system.
With a flick of a switch Pete Cowap – vocalist, tambourine man and captain of the enterprise – transforms from the happy, chatty pre-gig fella and enters the zone, detached and introspective. On bended knees, seemingly praying before the masses with tambourines and microphone his only salvation, he immerses himself into opener Sci-Fi Radio which, like with most PHP songs, lulls us into a false sense of security with its soothing riffs before building with a wall of sound, reverb and colour. Shades of early The Verve no doubt and Cowap beats himself with the tambourines in time to the beat, Bobby Gillespie style. This is psych without the synth and it’s mesmerising.
Drifter showcases the superb rhythmic bass playing of “bass cadet” Ste Woods. His relentless lines rumble through the room, inviting the lead guitars of Ryan Jon Arnfield and Sam Bugajski to alternate their energetic assault against a trippy visual backdrop and Cowap’s mesmerising vocals return us to atmospheric bliss….lost, in space.
Starfucker Blues is edgy, catchy and fuzzy. There are 60s influences (13th Floor Elevators/ Floyd) and some great 80s influences (MBV/ 90s The Verve) at work here. It’s a mind-bending, out of control, whirlwind of noise with the heart beating tambourine and the thudding drums from newly acquired, technically gifted Aussie drummer Brodie Dickerson. The audience, at this point of the magical mystery tour, are wondering where the next stop might be.
PHP are already turning heads and building up a decent following within the underground (and over ground) psychedelic / fuzz movement. Crowd favourite Lies And Kites ambles along nicely with a slow tempo before the drenched-out sound of soaring distorted guitars and haunting vocals provide a cocktail of stargazing supremacy. Comparisons to the great Tame Impala or equally brilliant Brian Jonestown Massacre would not be unjust.
New single Painting Pictures is sublime and trippy. The significant guitar effects and indistinguishable vocal blend nicely into the creative noise of the guitars. It’s a shame that problems with the production of the vinyl meant the single wasn’t available to buy on the night. It will be a must get, collector’s item when available. Buy it.
Spirit World invites the audience onto the next level and, transfixed throughout the whole set, they immerse themselves further into the music. Cowap rolls and writhes around the floor – perfectly acceptable behaviour to a psych, prog, fuzz crowd, lost on a distant planet until starfighter pilot Cowap and his crew arrive safely at their penultimate destination.
The Room is pure shoegaze rock and roll – Spiritualized meets The Verve meets The Music. You feel yourself floating further into space until the haunting vocal reminds us it’s getting close to disembarking this journey of space and time…except nobody wants the journey to end. Maybe the journey finishes too early as the appreciative audience clearly wants more of the psych experience but as Cowap exclaims “We’ll be back soon!”, I can’t help but think to myself “I must see this band again”.
Lies And Kites
All words by Jason Wynne. More writing by Jason can be found at his author’s archive.