GALLOWS + Every Time I Die. O2 Academy, Oxford. 15.05.09

Gallows have a lot to do tonight. They’ve got a setlist packed with brand new songs, a seriously road-weary frontman (although the skinny, wiry singer is convinced it’s swine flu), and, with a personalised tour bus outside, sponsorship from a certain unrelenting energy drink plastered all over the place, and two pages of very particular specifications taped to the sound desk, they’ve got to convince people that they’re still a proper punk band too. But none of these things actually come close to spoiling the show. Nope, instead the headliners came undone about four months ago when they booked Every Time I Die as support.

From start to finish the Buffalo brawlers are brilliant. ‘We’rewolf’ roars and claws out the speakers, a fiery ‘Floater’ proves the band having been writing amazing songs for years while ‘Cities And Years’ shows that they’re only getting better. Best of all though, even though they’re about to release their fifth record (of which we get a title, ‘New Junk Aesthetic’, and a song, the raging ‘Buffalo 666’), the quintet play with the same bristling energy and headlong intensity as a group just beginning. As well as being goddamn electric though, their is a sharp, tight, powerful and magnetic set that probably has Gallows backstage cursing the decision to ever bring them out.

And it’s not that the headliners are bad, not one bit. The Watford (or London now apparently) lot still tip the scales way towards pissing in the mainstream rather than following it, but after ETID they just can’t compete. For all the rave reviews there are no absolutely killer tunes on new album ‘Grey Britain’, in fact there are only two in the band’s entire back catalogue, and in this big, black, slick square of a venue, it’s just impossible to recreate the in-your-face rage that made that lack of material so easy to forgive, and this band so damn vital in the first place.

Gallows might have the press clippings, the sponsorship, and the label cash on their side then, but tonight in Oxford, it’s Every Time I Die’s night. And with a new album on the way and more UK tour plans in the pipeline, it doesn’t look like being their last either. Hot damn!

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