There is a certain amount of hype around this, the debut album from PINS. They’ve been featured in several ‘bands to watch out for’ articles even before they released their EP LuvU4Lyfe this time last year, and their live show continues to gather momentum with each performance garnering them more and more fans. Often the bands that come with this sort of hype have an album with a couple of strong singles thrown together with rehashed demos and should-have-been-B-Sides. This isn’t to say they’re bad, but they are frequently thrust into the spotlight before they’re ready. Not so with PINS who have built themselves up through line-up changes and brought themselves back after what was almost a final gig. I’m glad they did.
It’s On is an entranceway shrouded in fog summoned by a hypnotic bass line where Faith Holgate stands urging you to "hold yourself up", as the drums come in like a heavy heartbeat and the vocals become a chorus chanting "here I go". As far as opening statements go it leaves a lasting impression. You don’t have long to dwell though, as title track Girls Like Us rushes into the void and wraps its teeth around your throat with menacing bass and lyrics sung with a snarl before the chorus comes in and transports you to the backseat of a joyride. It’s hellishly evocative and I’m already using it to soundtrack black and white silent movies. Musically, PINS aren’t a band to shy away from their influences, but then it’s like that old apocryphal adage, good artists borrow but great artists steal. PINS don’t stress themselves out trying to sound brand new, instead taking what they love and putting their own stamp on it. Nicking all the best bits of post- and proto-punk, shoegaze and the oft-cited-in-PINS-reviews jangly melodic guitar pop of the C86 era, PINS put a polish on it; from the garage-punk sensibilities of Get With Me to the slow-burning noise pop of I Want It All which slows the whole shebang down a little without losing any of the energy generated so far. It doesn’t stay in second-gear for long either, building to a crescendo with whooping vocals leading into a chugging riff some thirty-seconds from the end as Faith starts to chant "I want it all, or nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing at all" before the song comes to a jolting close. By the time we fly into the toe-tapping dancefloor filler of Waiting for the End I’ve already fallen in love with the album. Sophie Galpin’s drumming and Anna Donnigan’s bass create a lynchpin of a rhythm section allowing Faith and Lois to wail on their guitars. I don’t want to create the impression that PINS are just four women showing off their ability to play enticing indie music: Girls Like Us is an album that takes us from tales of bravado covering up a sense of uncertainty in Lost, Lost, Lost to an intimate, introspective look at loss in Velvet Morning. The aforementioned piece is a shoegaze driven spoken word performance that acts as the calm before the storm of Stay True which comes in like Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth before dipping down and ramping up again, then tripping into the thrill of To You where wails of "oh, my heart aches" are delivered with back-up howls to create a ballad that sounds like a ‘fuck you’.
Closing track The Darkest Day turns the menace up to eleven and you can almost hear them come apart at the seams, but you also realise PINS are too smart for that. They are fully in control of where they take the song; they know where to drop in elements of the familiar before stripping them away to create a schism between the known and the new. It runs through the whole album, sometimes the band sway wildly from one to the other and sometimes they keep to the middle ground. The point is, that with this amount of ability and control in their debut, PINS have the potential to go on to even bigger things. I don’t think the hype will weigh them down. They’re too strong for that.
Girls Like Us by PINS is out now via Bella Union.