The Brudenell is one of the country’s finest live music spaces. The working men’s club-style setting is the ultimate setting for a band. The stage is low, the band are within touching distance and the PA is loud. Tonight, local heroes English Teacher are in the main room, bringing their art-punk stylings to an appreciative hometown crowd.
Before the main act graces the stage, The Brude is treated to a staggering support slot from Londoners Alien Chicks. The trio are impressive, and they tear through tune after tune of short, sharp punk tunes. They embody early Black Midi, with gigantic, mathrock riffs and huge industrial breakdowns. They play with time signatures and tease the crowd with false endings before a second or third act of a song comes crashing in out of left field. The guitars squeal like Tom Morello’s and the fat chunky bass parts combine with some seriously impressive drumming to make Alien Chicks a thrilling prospect.
Before long, the stage is dressed with fake plastic daffodils, and English Teacher burst on. The quartet strides on confidently, shrouded in dry ice: they’re accompanied by a cellist, who doubles up as an extra keyboard player.
The band are full of confidence and bolstered with maturity; a far way from the fresh-faced upstarts playing sweaty basements a couple of years back. This maturity shines through in their playing; they’re well drilled and have clearly spent time honing their sound. English Teacher burst into ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’, the standalone single between EP and album, and The Brudenell welcomes their homecoming stars with open arms.
English Teacher treat the crowd to a selection of new songs throughout the evening, each varying in tone and theme. For some numbers (‘Mastermind Specialism’ & ‘You Blister My Paint’), drummer Douglas Frost steps out from behind his kit and places himself at a keyboard.
The band leans into the artier, experimental side of their makeup and the new gear certainly showcases their clear sonic growth, as well as songwriting prowess drenched in melancholy. The disco-ball spins lazily above them, and reflects off of frontwoman Lily Fontaine’s equally mirrored cowboy hat, which barely contains her hair. ‘A55’, from the band’s Polyawkward EP, is a huge moment early in the set, and the odd, angular sections contrast with the soft, lovesick verses to great effect.
New cut ‘Albatross’ is huge, and sees English Teacher take on a more “traditional” song (i.e, each member plays their regular instrument), and sounds sublime – they have grown as artists, and the muscular heft to their sound is undeniable. Speedy Wunderground released ‘Song About Love’ is fantastic and the band are able to recreate the Dan Carey studio magic in a live space with aplomb. The new cuts are sprinkled with fantastic guitar work, with Lewis Whiting looking like a Yorkshire Graham Coxon behind a pair of orange tinted shades.
Throughout the set, Fontaine and her bandmates apologise for trotting out so much new gear, but the home crowd are vociferous in supporting the group. Such is the respect paid to ET, when the sensitive, slow numbers come out, there is silence in the room to the point where you can hear the metallic clunk of guitar pedal under boot.
Of course, this goes both ways, and as the tunes reach a rowdy fever pitch, so does the Brude. Everyone gets fully stuck in for latest single, ‘Nearly Daffodils’, where Fontaine grabs a bunch of the fake yellow plants from her mic-stand and waves them erratically, stopping at points to raise them high and look deeply into the daffodils, like Hamlet pondering Yorick’s skull.
Overall, the homecoming for English Teacher is an absolute triumph, and the band lap up the cheers from the adoring crowd. The new material is stunning, and showcases a band hitting their stride at the best possible time.
Photo credit: Tatiana Pozuelo