They are stronger than Mensa. They spit out Derek Jarman, Karin Bergöö Larsson and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Every New Pagans gig is a schooling, an alternative history and a major lesson in riffology.
We’re become used to seeing New Pagans on the bigger stages, like Stendhal, The Limelight and CS Lewis Square. They stalk around those open spaces with ease, but the Ulster Sports Club is tight, compressed and therefore exciting in other ways.
They are thunderously concise, like you know. Allan and Claire are lurching and nonchalant on the right. Close enough to collide but it doesn’t happen. Cahir is by the speaker column on the left and he shouts a bit between songs, directing the mosh manoeuvres. Conor brings the precision and Lyndsay does the inclement squeals and acute ideas.
They have two albums now and the chance to flit from newbies like ‘Better People’ and ‘Find Fault With Me’ into the tested roar of ‘Bloody Soil’. The scale of change is measured with ‘A Process of Becoming’, which slows into a wonderful dub-punk experience. It sounds like The Slits or maybe The Cure, circa ‘Lullabye’. A thing to witness.
Other moments are slightly hesitant and the stage floor is pasted over with song directions and lyric fragments to guide the unfamiliar ways. Lyndsey confesses that they’ve had “the week from hell” and at times, the stress is revealed in the brute crunch of ‘It’s Darker’. Or the new terms of defiance in ‘Fresh Young Overlook’.
A thrill, by anyone else’s standards. But there was a sense that the final reach of ‘Harbour’ was a necessary respite. Massive guitars and emotions uncoiled. An upcoming tour postponed. You trust that repairs and rest will enable the Pagans to resume this fierce art.