Six By Seven made one hell of a splash when they first appeared over fifteen years ago, the music press in the UK making them something like the “great white hope” of guitar music of the time. That they never became huge is not a tale of style over substance, but more one of a band who were hyped up to be something that they weren’t. Yeah, so while they had moments of glorious accessibility, the majority of their work was perhaps too intense, too much “hard work” for most listeners.
That intensity resulted in two astonishing albums, and then a number of good songs beyond that, but as line-up changes occurred, it seemed to take the wind from their sails a little. I saw them live in Leeds (at the Cockpit) sometime around 2002/03, and they were blisteringly good, but something clearly wasn’t right from their body language, and it was no real surprise when they finally disbanded.
Vocalist Chris Olley has continued plugging away, with his project twelve, solo work, and at least one other attempt at reforming 6×7, before reappearing with the drum-less, glowering (The Death of) Six By Seven (which resulted in a great show in London last summer), which finally suggested something else was afoot.
As the year turned to 2013, that promise was finally confirmed, with a new line-up of Six By Seven – still with Chris Olley and James Flower, but also notably Steve Hewitt (ex-Placebo) as drummer. And as the first songs were teased out from the forthcoming album LOVE AND PEACE AND SYMPATHY, it became pretty clear that this looks like it could be quite a comeback.
Which brings me to this show. I won’t lie – I paid little attention to the support acts – although main support Two Skies were notable for seemingly being stuck in some seventies-rock throwback that managed to reference both Bon Jovi and The Verve within a few songs, and it wasn’t long before I and my gig-going companions retreated to the bar.
This show had been billed by Six By Seven as a show where they would showcase all of the new album, with potential for “maybe” a few old songs. Chris Olley kiboshed the latter idea pretty quickly, making it clear that he was much keener on looking forwards rather than back, and maybe, just maybe, he was right on the night. It would have been nice to hear even a couple of old songs, but there is always next time, eh?
Why was he right? Well, one track in particular was worth the ticket price alone, and that was the monstrous Truce. From the new album it is the most obvious nod back to their grinding, post-rock influenced fury, nine minutes or so of two sections of restraint, with Olley’s vocals apparently delivered through gritted teeth, before the end of both sections absolutely exploding into a thundering, drum’n’riff section that Led Zeppelin would have been proud of, and it sounded fucking incredible at punishing volume in a room so enclosed.
Other tracks take things in other directions entirely. Crying is almost poppy indie rock – I say almost – while Sympathy, drenched in organ backing, takes (The Death of) Six By Seven to it’s logical conclusion, and is has a vague feeling of positivity, not something too common in Olley’s songs! I don’t think I’m going mad, either, but I recall another track I’ve got on one of the vinyl releases, Change, also featured, which is a track that links this band most clearly as like-minded souls to the spacey grooves of Spiritualized. Not that this is a bad thing – both bands were, and are, sonic adventurers who took listeners to places that other bands simply weren’t/aren’t capable of reaching.
Nine songs and fifty minutes or so later, we were done, blasted out by a set of intense, densely constructed music, and the “we” was one of those crowds only a handful of bands can attract – one almost exclusively made up of dedicated fans who have stuck with the band for a long, long time, and were the kind of crowd broadly happy to enjoy a set of entirely new material. Ok, so I can’t recall every song in great detail, but what I do know is that if the album even harnesses half the power of the live show, we are in for something special indeed.
Welcome back, Six By Seven, you’ve been greatly missed. A shot in the arm of the “indie rock” drudgery we’ve had to endure in the years since the early 2000s would be very welcome, and here’s hoping the music press help remind readers of their greatness too, eh? Ok, so maybe not holding out too much hope on that front, but I’m happy to do my bit to spread the word regardless.
The album, by the way, is out on 10-June.