Updated: Jun 19
Reviewed by Stephen Pennell
Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath.
It seemed like a lifetime since I'd been to a live gig, and I couldn’t have chosen a better one to blow away the cobwebs. Opening with recent single I Serve Not, and quoting Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sickeningly unempathetic advice to the Grenfell Tower victims (“run away, it’s simple common sense”), Connor Hill and the boys start as they mean to go on. While some indie bands flirt round the edges and dip their toes in the dirty water of straight-up hard rock, The Novus dive in at the deep-end without armbands, having already pissed off the lifeguards. Powered along by Euan Woodman’s steam press drums and Tyla Challenger’s rumbling bass, and with Euan’s brother Harry’s guitar supplementing Tom Rhodes’ wall of psychedelic sound, they sound more powerful than ever.
It takes a special front man to be the lightning rod for the surrounding storm and luckily, The Novus have one in the mean, lean shape of Connor, the overtly political conscience of the Birmingham music scene, and owner of a Stourbridge perm that Robert Plant and Miles Hunt would be justly proud of. Preaching a series of polemical sermons against greed and privilege, the singer’s passion shines as bright as the Hare and Hounds’ house lights as he narrates a post-punk, post-truth, post-modern fairytale on the injustices of today’s world. The band run through the entirety of their recently-released, Gavin Monaghan-produced Thaleia Standing EP, including stand-out track Castaway, and the on-stage temperature rises until their tops come off.
New songs Blinded By Fear, Refrain and Brightest Star show no drop in standards, but the highlight for me is Closest Thing I Felt To Love, a beautiful lament that shows off the band’s versatility and song-craft, as well as a welcome glimpse of a flower amongst the nettles in this aural bouquet of barbed wire. Any Novus set list would be enhanced by the missing Break, Frosty and Man On The Bridge, but maybe this trio of crowd-pleasers will return when the mosh-pits do. With such belief in and focus on new material though, the band can’t be accused of resting on their laurels. Socially-distanced gigs aren’t ideal, but what more appropriate soundtrack could there be than The Novus’ brutal exposure of the economically-distanced two-tier system of modern Britain?
Check out the brilliant new EP here.