It’s a bold gamble indeed to start off your set on a quiet Monday night in Glasgow with the appropriately murky spaghetti western tangle of Undergrowth. Happily, New Zealand indie trio Mermaidens are commanding enough to pull it off.
Their songs are more often than not characterised by circular rhythmic thrusts, first purring, then pouncing. Such feline tactics are underpinned by the gorgeously assured vocals of both guitarist Gussie Larkin and bass player Lily West, who harmonise so bewitchingly together you’d swear they were twin sisters.
I Might Disappear‘s Goth snake-hipped undulations are offset by the tribal drumming of Abe Hollingsworth, whose tom toms invoke shamanic fireside rituals in the woods. It’s dark out here, yet Larkin’s soaring vocals suggest purification is possible. Cut It Open even harkens back to early Throwing Muses, which shows the fully-formed songwriting of the band.
These are visceral songs which linger like insidious accusations. Larkin and West’s moody riffs are earworms which cause discomfort in a pleasurable way, like a jump scare in a horror film when the protagonist enters a seemingly empty house. The band know when to take it down to a whisper, or when to build up tension. Psychedelic influences wrap around, and complement, the early 90s structures of the songs. Latest album Look Me In The Eye is appropriately named, as it feels confrontational and edgy.
The dark lyricism, chunky bass and buzzsaw guitar are only one element of Mermaidens’ story, though. There’s an impish side too, and the charismatic between-songs banter touches on the relative merits of partaking of spicy food on tour, and how Bastards (another song title) isn’t really swearing in Antipodean culture.
Satsuma, divinely helmed by West, has a sweet, toothy tang, but tonight Mermaidens can be gloriously irreverent too. Catch them soon, while they are still one of indie’s best-kept secrets.