The Hope, Brighton – 8th October 2013

It's nearly a year on since we last saw Pins in Brighton when they opened for the imperious Savages in the opulent surroundings of the Paganini Ballroom. That day the Manchester band had put on a fair enough show but had looked a little ill at ease and unsettled. Whether this was due to the unusually large crowd before them or the daunting experience of opening for a band who would make anybody look like rank outsiders is unknown, but certainly we would have hesitated before hitting the coast again to see Pins in a headline role had it not been for the release of some very impressive records in the intervening period. The LuvU4Lyf EP, which coincided with the Savages gig, was a nicely dark entry into the fray which hinted that we had not seen the band at their best, and this was underlined by the recent release of the exceptional 'Stay True' / 'Get With Me' single and the band's debut Bella Union album, Girls Like Us.

So, we make our first visit to The Hope in some time, a decent little venue in the heart of the city, holding around a hundred, but hotter than Hades in a heatwave and crying out for some investment in air conditioning. Slotting into the opening role tonight are Abjects, an all-girl London trio who have been recording for Pins' own Haus of Pins label and they appear to be in their element as they run through an impressive set of edgy garage tunes, perky basslines washed over with lashings of blurry guitar. There doesn't appear to be too many nerves here; indeed, it looks as though the girls have just walked out of the office straight on to the stage and at the conclusion of their set they join the front of the audience to take in the headline act.

If we had had any fears over Pins' performance tonight, these are soon allayed as the quartet look immediately at home as they charge through the new album. Driven on by relative newcomer, powerhouse drummer Sophie Galpin – all "1,2,3,4s", leaping to her feet and living every moment of every song – the sparkle is added by guitarists Faith Holgate and Lois McDonald, black and white bobs, plenty of legs and interaction. Singer Holgate is the most intense as she falls to her knees to send waves of protest through her guitar, while McDonald darts around the stage, stabbling at her strings, a huge grin revealing the love for her work. Glueing the two disparate elements together, impossibly cool bassist Anna Donigan is the picture of calmness, beautifully hatted and booted and managing to communicate with the audience when Holgate seems far away.

The venue is pretty much full and Holgate's call for the audience to move forward is largely ignored; there's some room in front of the stage but no gaping chasm and though the audience are happy to drift away in the swirling currents of guitars, Pins don't encourage you to don your dancing shoes. There's not a lot of ebullience, but there's a pleasing murky darkness to their sound, wired guitars interspersed with plenty of whoos and backing vocals: things that shouldn't work, but somehow do. Close your eyes and the harmonies are pretty much spot on, adding an unusual facet to the band's sound, their songs black diamonds, gently polished, peculiarly desireable.

Catch them on the current tour if you can. Pins are a little different, a little complex, a little bit moody and extremely absorbing. Where can they go? Finding out will be the fun bit.

Words Adam, Photographs Gary

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