Krooked Tongue at The Louisiana, Bristol – 28/03/2019

From left to right: Dan Smith (guitar), Oli Rainsford (vox & bass), Harry Pritchard (drums)

With a name like Krooked Tongue, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume this is a band whose music is full of pent-up angst. If I had to pick one word to describe the trio’s ten-song set at The Louisiana last Thursday that would be ‘downright moody’. Well, that’s two words, but you get the gist. The band describe themselves as ‘underground rock’, inspired by the likes of Highly Suspect, Death From Above 1979, Queens of the Stone Age, and Nirvana. Krooked Tongue have taken these influences to produce an array of songs with varying feels, never being samey or dull. The audience was kept on its toes as each track packed a punch in a different way, whether that was with highlighting moments from Oli Rainsford’s vocals or bass playing, Dan Smith’s guitar, or Harry Pritchard’s drumming.

Dressed a bit like a sailor, in dungarees and a stripy top, frontman Rainsford had a quietly eccentric stage presence. Unsurprisingly, he spent much of the set doing the classic ‘singing behind a mop of curls and gazing out into the audience’ thing. This was made more interesting by his melodic bass playing, though – many of the songs began with a bold, commanding bass riff, heard in songs such as ‘Different Breed’ and ‘I Wanna Steal Your Car’. His slightly gritty mid-range-focused voice was beautiful and soulful, working effortlessly well with the instrumental parts. He threw in the odd rocky scream here and there, but never overdid it. Smith’s guitar playing was exciting and imaginative. The guitarist knew when to keep it simple and when to pull out all the stops. Pritchard’s performance on drums was tight and never stuck with the same feel for too long.

Some of Krooked Tongue’s best moments from the gig’s first half include songs ‘Different Breed’ and ‘Girls With Knives’. The former began with Rainsford playing a bass riff which was then mirrored by Smith on guitar. Pritchard’s drumming had a really punky feel in the choruses before becoming more primal-sounding in the bridge with a four-on-the-floor and toms driven build-up. ‘Girls With Knives’ was great fun with its defining psychotic edge, much of which came from Smith’s funky wah guitar, and cutting crashes from Pritchard. The song’s dreamy, more upbeat bridge was quite an unexpected change, seeming almost ironic. It worked though, and provided something to offset the sludgy outro section.

Halfway through the set, Krooked Tongue played ‘The Machine’. With a sort of Foo Fighters-ish, arena rock feel, it had plenty of potential to be a great ‘get out your lighters / phone flashlights and start swaying’ tune for bigger venues or festival stages. The way the song managed to feel so dark and yet have a sense of hope to it was effective and memorable. The band’s choice to follow their power ballad equivalent with ‘Velociraptor’ was a smart move, raising the energy levels from mellow to fizzing. This one got the audience dancing and jumping around with its catchy mid-2000s indie groove. A couple of the following songs, ‘No Vacancy Hotel’ and ‘Skeleton’, nodded to early ’90s metal-inspired grunge (think Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots) and threw in a menacing, sinister edge to the ever-varied set. However, my favourite song from the whole gig was Krooked Tongue’s seriously badass closing number, ‘Dance Like The Bull’. Everything about this song felt like a crazed cry for help, from Smith’s shrieking unison bends to Rainsford’s chants of “Dance, dance, dance like the bull!”. Imagine taking all your bottled-up resentment and frustration and suddenly expelling it in musical form. This was what the band did here – it was the perfect way to close their rollercoaster of emotions of a show.

© Emily Engleheart

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