With close to a decade of recordings and touring on their CV, Sound of the Sirens have thus far stayed under the AUK radar. They are a duo of Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood, Exeter-rooted, and guitar -based with a backup of other strings plus regular forays onto the keyboards. Bob Harris would quite probably like them – their sheen and readily mainstream-able palette sits somewhere not wildly distant from The Shires or earlier Ward Thomas – no bad thing, to be clear. They have an assured and confident stage presence which should endear them to live audiences and tonight’s gathering has a hefty presence of their age group peers. Vocally, there are twin harmonies from the upper octaves, the words sounded clearly and the twin guitars and drums setup has echoes of Smoke Fairies. They also have an unmistakable Englishness to their ambience.
This gig is right in the heart of Islington with the focus on their new (and third so far) album, ‘Damage Control’, part of a lengthy tour, pushing on to late May before heading into summer festival mode. The first set has all eleven tracks in the published order and the songs are tightly and concisely arranged. Opener, ‘Here’s To Us’, is, it seems, bittersweetly titled, and aligns with the new album’s title, as a post break-up song; the narrative expresses “gratitude” that her ex’s negligent treatment has given her the strength to handle the trauma of the romance ending. Most of the album takes us through the trials of a couple having doubts, conflicts, dishing out blame, misunderstandings and silences that speak. ‘Devil In Its Eyes’ majors on a jangling guitar thrumming along and showcases the dual vocals, sometimes harmonising, sometimes deliberately departing company. ‘Why Not Now?’ is a potentially anthemic song, big piano chords driving the song and a rousing singalong-able chorus, “Why not now/now Is all we have/If we’re gonna make it work….”
‘So Nearly’ has a thudding drum beat, courtesy of Lucy Piper who has been added to the group for the tour, with notable clout, and its short sharp time span has shades of indie rock realms. ‘Hope That We Sail On’, the final song on the album is another anthemic rhythm with a high note of enthusiasm – the world singing together as one, and it hits a sweet spot, it’s big vocals would sit nicely in the arena atmosphere of C2C.
‘These Are The Days’, is a bouncy poppy sing-along and not out of kilter with the involvement of Saul Davies of James, producer of the current album and also on musical duty tonight. “The stars right now are aligning for you and me” is an unequivocally joyous lyric from a very upbeat song. Davies joins the duo onstage for the encores. There’s a very slowed down, stripped back acoustic version of ‘Sit Down’, the James classic, with Davies saying, “the lyrics are sometimes overlooked,” which the zillions who have sung it in the last umpteen years might query. Regardless, they serve up a very stirring interpretation with its own stamp. Brief interjections between songs keeps the focus on the music although when one self-styled wit calls out “you can do it Abbe” she retorts,” my guitar string just broke so I actually can’t.” ‘High Hopes’ keeps up the positive thread, as per the title, “You’re so much more than you deliver,” and has bucolic folk tinges. The final song, ‘Together Alone’ takes us back to the guitar and piano power ballad more typical of their repertoire, themed around cooperative resilience to make the most of our available time.