Tightly wound guitar strings prone to snapping, a group of twenty-somethings from Leicester, an intoxicated crowd of passionate punters, and an extraordinary amount of bleach. North-West upstarts Fruit headline Manchester’s Band On The Wall… well, what could go wrong?
“Has anyone got a spare guitar?”, frontman Josh Withers calls out after finishing the band’s opening number – and, no, this is not for comedic effect, but a genuine question. He sips his pint nervously, aware that his band’s headline gig is already in complete jeopardy within just three minutes of starting. A bead of sweat runs down his forehead. Fruit are a band not for the faint of heart – their highly-strung, erratic wailings are prone to breaking down at any moment. A guitar is brought to the front and there’s a sigh of relief: “You have just saved our gig.”
Fruit have been making an impression across the North-West and it’s understandable: their songs are etched with Northern influence, from the fast-paced, youthful kicks of Buzzcocks and the drawled narration of John Cooper Clarke, to the looming, omnipresent influence of the late Ian Curtis found in any self-respecting alternative band’s repertoire. But their influences don’t end with the North – their sound is a cooking pot of culture, a stitching together of musical influences from all across the international left-field. There’s just as much kraut-rock influence to be found here as US noise-rock. Across their headline set, Fruit showcase these varied inspirations with consistent vigour, energy, and eclecticism. It’s a racket – deafening and, at times, nonsensical – but a profoundly cultured racket.
Once guitars are redistributed, guitarists Jimmy Danger and Brynn Williams get back to their interplays of distortion and Fruit are back on track. They blister through their set list, featuring effervescent single ‘Bleak’, with a palpable chemistry. Frontman Withers parades the stage like a bleach-blonde version of Grian Chatten, often parking himself in the corner to stoop over amps and curiously inspect his bandmates as if they’re of extraterrestrial descent. Bassist Alex Hemley makes all the obvious punk connections – he seamlessly glides between the commanding lead of Peter Hook to the grimy, rusty growling of Jean-Jaques Burnell. Drummer George Dimmock is perhaps the heart of Fruit’s chaos, however: he violently, but precisely, thrashes the kit, eyes glinting in the limelight. Fruit are a collective in which every member immensely matters – something which, admittedly, doesn’t apply to a large majority of groups.
Whilst Fruit’s cultured chaos features an intoxicating energy and a consistently engaging audience interaction, one can’t help but wonder if the band’s material could do with less noise, and more melody. The prowling, rambling dispositions of frontmen like Mark E Smith of The Fall, or the leering menace of Sex Pistols provocateur John Lydon, isn’t something to be toyed with – as easily pigeon-holed as these punk/post-punk icons can be, their vocal styles somersault between the monotone and the melodic, which is what makes their voices so enduring. Fruit know how to make a racket, control a crowd, and put on a memorable performance, but it’d be nice if they could write a hummable chorus also. Their chaos is wonderful, but with some stronger melodies at the core of their deafening sprawl? Well, they could be huge.
Fruit are a live force to be reckoned with, and they’re only going to get bigger the more they tour throughout the North-West. Their sound is enough to prick up ears. Now they just need some songs to get stuck in heads.