Boston Manor have, over recent years, changed pretty drastically, in their eyes at least. “Boston Manor aren’t a pop-punk band anymore” screams lead-singer Henry Cox towards the end of their set at Newcastle’s Think Tank? (or ‘that place above Digital with the neon sign’ as its better known). How true that is I’m still not sure about, as it still has the energy of a State Champs show, although admittedly with a grittier lyrical edge.
Their latest album Welcome to the Neighbourhood (2018) is essentially a concept album about their lives growing up in Blackpool; deprivation, drug abuse and depression are all sang about in bucket-loads. One of my albums of the year last year, it also gained Kerrang! Magazine’s approval, being made Album of the Week upon its release. On the back of this underrated masterpiece, their live shows promised big things in small venues.
Think Tank? only holds 200 people, so it goes without saying that it’s probably not going to be the biggest show of their lives. However, someone needed to tell the boys in Modern Error that you’re supposed to at least pretend you’re enjoying yourself. Dressed like a My Chemical Romance Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge era tribute act, the Peterborough-born quintet played six songs which were reminiscent of Thirty Seconds To Mars B-Sides, but if they were still going through their screamo phase.
Somehow, they managed to seem to be trying too hard whilst simultaneously not trying at all. The volume needed to be turned down a few notches; the sound was muddy, and any lyric definition got lost in the relentlessly heavy drum beat. I think that there is definitely potential with this act, they just need to find their niche instead of getting caught up in trying to sound like all the successful rock bands that they no doubt grew up listening to.
Boston Manor did at least seem to be having a good time. They started with a very clear aim, rattling through ‘Liquid’ and ‘Lead Feet’, opening the pit up almost instantly. As a pop-punk show, it had everything you would expect: crowd-surfing, a Wall of Death, Circle Pits, and more moshing than you could shake a stick at. As mentioned earlier, they want to be seen as a punk band now, so wouldn’t thank me for calling them pop-punk. But, if you have to tell the crowd that you’re no longer pop-punk, you probably need to try a bit harder to distance yourself from the genre.
They were very clearly trying to do so in hindsight, playing only 3 songs from their previous albums. The songs from all eras do go down a treat in fairness, so it’s not like they had sacrificed the overall experience just to try and prove their punk-related point. ‘Funeral Party’ and ‘Flowers In Your Dustbin’ send the crowd hyper, with one bloke hitting his head so hard on one of the stage lights that he almost certainly caused himself irreparable damage. It was definitely a show aimed at those who wanted to punch each other and get up on stage, leaving the rest of us who were there to just hear the music feeling a bit separate from the gig. As a result, Cox spent more time demanding energy from the crowd than he did singing songs, as well as repeating the tired lines such as “Newcastle is our favourite place to tour” and “we’re all a family here”. Nice sentiment, but boring.
In between monologues, the songs were well-performed, and it was clear that they meant business. The rest of the band did look a bit bored however, which is never the way to gain friends and influence people (just ask Modern Error…).
On the whole, it was ok. I know that’s not hugely insightful, but it’s difficult to say much else as the band are clearly in a transformative period of their time together, and it felt like they were sort of going through the motions. Hopefully when they find their feet in the punk world, they’ll come back and show us what Boston Manor can really do.
Featured image available on Instagram @bstnmnr