Gig review: Toothless at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

'We don't actually want to hurt you,' Ed Nash assures a receptively warm audience huddled around the small stage of the Brudenell Social Club. He grins demurely. 'Please don't all run away.'

He and his four-piece band – including his support act Liz Lawrence on guitar – have just performed a caustic rendition of You Thought I Was Your Friend (I Want to Hurt You), a buzzing, mumbling slice of off-kilter indie-pop.

The influence of Nash’s role in Bombay Bicycle Club is palpable; the apple of his side-project Toothless has not fallen too far from the tree, with mixed if rarely dull results.

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The outfit’s debut record, The Pace of the Passing, only saw release last month, though Nash refrains from complimenting a tight eleven-song set with additional material culled from his other musical career. Instead, he creates quixotic textures, oddly misty in their quality, such as on the hushed-chants that gently float underneath opener Charon or the choral flavour that permeates a winsome The Sirens. Though occasionally cloying in their execution, there’s a subdued mournfulness to Nash’s vocals that helps sell his songs, a wispiness and wistfulness in equal part; on the grooving Palm’s Backside, he unfurls a velveteen croon that feels like an intimate caress.

Conversely though, the band struggle all too often to carve a separate identity from Bombay; Nash occasionally finds himself slipping back into the soundscapes associated with his main group.

The mid-tempo blast of Kairos, one of the first tracks the band debuted last spring, could have easily sat on So Long, See You Tomorrow, whilst the krautrock-inflected rhythm of Sisyphus, with its glassy piano-percussion, is dazzling in a familiar way.

Closing duet Pray for Two is evocative too; but only the restrained guitar snarl of The Midas Touch feels significantly like a step beyond the periphery. Abruptly, it ends and the band blink owlishly as the house lights flicker on, before they begin to dismantle their gear without fuss.

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Toothless may be possessed of a beguiling slickness live; but with tracks lacquered in the same old varnish, Nash perhaps needs to broaden his horizons into the sonic distance – or risky slipping into dream-rock ambiguity.

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