By Miles Stevenson
Leeds-based Venus were headlining Tits Upon Tyne II in late February when I first heard them. Despite the innumerable number of pints downed that night, I can still remember being captivated the moment they stamped on stage, and I enthusiastically joined the rest of the crowd with belting out “You’re such a fucking tool!”, as per the chorus of Deranged.
With a discography already consisting of three singles all released within the last year, Venus are now dropping another trio packaged up in their debut EP Wicked Things. This has come as somewhat of a surprise, with many bands choosing to postpone releases due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, Venus have maintained their initial drop date of 3/4/20, and it’ll be a welcome relief for those struggling with the current drought in the local scene.
Wicked Things opens with No Signs. It’s intense from the start with growling riffs and a consistent drum track that turns to a metallic, thrashing wall of punk as the choruses roll around. As is typical of Venus’ work, Grace ‘GK’ Kelly’s vocals stand out, nods to goddesses of vox-gone-by such as Siouxsie Sioux and Shirley Manson; controlled, yet belting in a way that evokes some sort of primal rage in the listener. Screaming the line “You think you’re better than me!”, is accusatory, confrontational, and most of all, confident. It’s a song that feels like an adrenaline rush, and as it closes I can imagine it being the band’s go-to for inciting a distinctly femme-fuelled mosh pit.
Amy, the EP’s next offering is a ballad that is haunting and tender, but not at all at odds with Venus’ sonic style. The synth work of Grace Stubbings is integral to the atmosphere of this piece: it’s progressive humming intertwined with samplings of a howling wind build something Wuthering Heights-esque. A choice for relatively sparse drumming by Gabby Cooke allows for the synth and guitars to breathe for the first three dreamy minutes. Then, hints at a climax begin to emerge, and the final minute crashes down in a wave. The piece shifts to a frenzied display of yearning and gratitude, and then cuts back to an outro of the initial sampling, coming full-circle. Amy is an emotional masterpiece that stands out amongst Venus’ catalogue, and is an almost spiritual moment to witness performed live.
Finally, You’re Alright, I Guess is just as flippant as the title suggests. With comfortingly familiar thumping drums and growling guitar riffs from Jess Ayres, it’s traditional rock. GK’s vocals are again prominent with girlish intonation. As she spits these irreverent lyrics (“Am I not your type?”), the resulting juxtaposition is a sickly sweet venom. The balance of bass – courtesy of Hannah Barraclough –and rhythm guitar provides the song with an attitude that is nothing short of a metaphorical middle finger. A short and breathless piece that ends on a sigh, it’s a fitting end to such a conceptually strong debut EP.
Wicked Things is comprised of three wildly different tracks, but Venus pulls them all off so well. As a relatively young band, their successful experimentation with different genres is promising, and speaks of yet more great things to come. Unpredictable, but always reliable.Fans of Venus will be happy to be able to access these songs outside of gigs, and new listeners will hopefully seek out the band’s previous work. Personally, I already know which of my playlists each of these tunes belong in.