Owen Brinley almost tasted fame when, as a member of Grammatics, he toured Europe with Placebo. When the band imploded amid financial turmoil and he was diagnosed with tinnitus it looked like he was destined to become one of pop’s nearly men.
The Leeds musician’s rebirth with Department M suggests he isn’t quite ready to give up on fame just yet. Leaving behind his former outfit’s indie guitar-rock he’s adopted a post-industrial electronic sound.
Having released a his self-titled debut mini-album in 2013 he’s now back promoting new single Bleak Technique with a three-piece live band that includes Pulled Apart By Horses’ Tommy Davidson on drums.
The track’s launch gig continues his musical transformation with waves of icy synths that are redolent of Depeche Mode. The brooding and claustrophobic layers of sound are lent welcome relief by his vocals, for which his distinctive falsetto is utilised to winning effect.
Enticingly dramatic, the set is nonetheless undermined by a lack of musical contrast. This is also true of headliners and fellow Leeds act Post War Glamour Girls.
The quartet’s debut album, Pink Fur, was praised for its sense of menace and abrasiveness upon its release last year. They bring both qualities to their live set, with lead vocalist and guitarist James Smith being an intense presence as his lyrical anger seems to ramp up throughout the show.
The post-punk outfit take an obvious influence from The Birthday Party, while Smith’s vocals share the unhinged quality of prime Frank Black. Regardless of this they manage to rise above pure pastiche, which is primarily due to the adrenaline pumped passion that runs through the show.
As Smith prowls through the audience at the end of the set, however, there’s a sense of anger overkill and a desire for the occasional change of tone.