Tonight of all nights feels precisely the right time to go see Yorkshire’s returning alt. rock stalwarts Sky Larkin, not least as they just so happened to unveil a preliminary glimpse into their third, and as yet untitled full-length – Motto – more recently than it would’ve taken to travel down to the neighbouring Kings Cross from their native Leeds, and those East Coast trains really don’t hang about. And neither do Katie Harkin & co. Well, almost…
Since last heard from, a trio became a duo became a quartet although tonight they’re back down to three, as newly recruited string slinger Nile Marr recently lost the tip of a finger to a blender blade. It’s currently swirling about in some gory milkshake somewhere presumably. So he’s needless to say out and indeed debilitated but the show must, and indeed does go on. “He’s healing like a starfish” anyhow, as Harkin impishly informs.
Lamentably, I never previously got the opportunity to see Sky Larkin live, so I’ve no point of contact when looking to establish comparisons between previous lineups and the new look although bassist Sam Pryor certainly looks, though probably more pertinently sounds the part. His bass lines blunt if still incisive, he brings both vigour and joviality – besides a frenetic rendition of Panjabi MC’s Mundian To Bach Ke meanwhile Harkin switches guitars up – and an identikit stressed denim jacket straight out of Blue Rinse. But most significantly, it’s he who fleshes out the sound as he rampantly thrashes reverberant thrums from ravaged bass. It’s rough – the sound of a band recalled to the dentist after years of neglect to again attempt to, and inevitably succeed in cutting teeth – and even though they’re depleted in number tonight, they contrive to painlessly appear fully fledged and so too fully formed. Ready to fly the coop, as it were.
Still Windmills raws with vim, its “potential” fulfilled with its author visibly “activated and energised” by both a shift in impetus and image, and seemingly by a protracted stint away. ‘Forged in Leeds and Sheffield, canned in Seattle’ read this afternoon’s missive, and certainly Sky Larkin now sound bigger; bulkier; brawnier, almost as the West Coast birthplace of grunge has evidently become entwined with the very fibres of the band.
Though it’s then the moment we so impatiently await – new material other than that track from a tad earlier on. It’s entitled Treasury, and it’s a bloody diamond – a breakneck trash laced with the irrepressible jolt of The Sea and Cake. Harkin breathes a sigh of relief only once it’s done and ostensibly dusted, and although it’s understandable what with this being its only second outing she needn’t, as it’s ever breathless.
And she herself seems a lark unleashed, for the newly composed rhythm section is so thoroughly robust that she’s freed to work wonders with the newly acquired cerise gizmo she so cruelly strums throughout as though it were a bird condemned to final clucks and subsequent plucking. Quite unmistakably, she’s the thrust; the axis; the crux, and she’s earning her crust – not least on a particularly meaty newie entitled Carve It Out. Her guitar here loveably sludgy, only her perpetually vulnerable vocal is able to splinter through and it does so like a keen pickaxe hacking callously into sun-dappled northern slush.
Which seems fitting, for new and older material now positively sound poles apart. There’s a chasmic gulf distancing this from, say, Summit which speaks volumes for The Golden Spike barb still sounds ruddy awesome. Though it’s Motto, with its ebbing and flowing; cut and thrust post-punk galumph, which already sounds categorically gargantuan. Frighteningly so, almost. It sounds a hit, which may or may not be due to me having heard it some twenty-odd times in these past couple hours, and could quite conceivably be treated as such before the summer’s out.
And with that they’re out. Up and at us, but for the time being off. They’ve quite irrefutably not only survived the cataclysmic drought to have despoiled Leeds’ musical landscape, but so too have they outgrown its once so fecund soils. At which point we’ll do away with the avifaunal allegory, and instead revert to classical mythology in order to fully proclaim their newfound potency. For akin to a phoenix reawakened from a flickering stillness, Sky Larkin are now sounding fucking rip-roaring.