Glorious pop terror
The Chapman Family - Live At The Macbeth, London

The Chapman Family set themselves firmly in the alt-rock scene when they became Artrocker darlings a couple of years ago, but tonight, with a new single out, it feels like the band are already on the comeback trail. There are feelings of expectation tonight at The Macbeth, even anxiety, as they vie to keep their existing fans adoring them, while trying to capture the hearts and minds of curious newcomers.

The group creep their way into the set with feedback and hum, and set upon the audience with ‘Into the Breach’. As they segue into ‘This English Life’, the band of brothers thrash away at the heavily beat-driven music trying to wrestle the song’s melody from the fug of moody bass lines, shoegazy guitars and soaring, feral vocals.

Frontman Kingsley Chapman is flanked on both sides by what looks like twins, quiffed up and vogue-ish – one on lead guitar and the other on rhythm. He swings from demonstrative lengths of saccharine sweet vocals to moodily moving unsympathetic and incensed screams of ferocity. It’s quite effective. There’s a bipolarity that’s exuded by the relentless surge of beat and rhythm that’s only increased when the frontman’s keys rise through the muddy mix - a haunting, creeping surge of vintage organ.

The venue adds to this atmosphere of looming unease. As the audience falls into a kind of numb but satisfied daze and the band wrestle with the sound, the gothic ambience seems to transform the gig into an event. Suddenly new release ‘Cruel Brittania’ breaks out and The Chapman Family seem to come up gasping for air, as relevant in 2012 as they were three years ago – a British rock band to follow in The Horrors’ murky wake. Guitars flail and fly, drums are being pummelled, and as the bass ranges from a rapid pulse to a deep and hard beat it’s a glorious pop terror moment.

They’re a force of nature, The Chapman Family. A torrent of modern post-punk energy. Only time will tell if the storm will spread.

Words by Libby Moné

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