Spanish Love Songs: O2 Institute 2, Birmingham

Last year saw Spanish Love Songs, the US alt-rockers, release their fourth studio album, “No Joy”, that hinted at glimmers of positivity amidst their usually presented gloom and angst. A sold out Institute 2 suggests it is clearly something needed on a cold January night in Birmingham. Geoff Shaw was there for Resound Online.

The world as it enters 2024 feels a relatively unstable place with a general underlying feeling of foreboding, something that has coursed through the songs of Spanish Love Songs for the past ten years. Whilst the trajectory of a bands career rarely heads in a predictable direction, it’s doubtful that even self-confessed grouchrockers, Spanish Love Songs, would’ve identified a global pandemic as a point which would see them garner a world of new fans. Releasing third album “Brave Faces Everyone” in February 2020 weeks before lockdown saw an album that squarely took on depression and existential anguish in an apt case of cometh the hour, cometh the band, as they became many a lockdown sufferers new favourite earworm. With a whole new following acquired, it’s a packed venue of fans old and new that await the supports soon after doors opening.

First up are four piece SUDS who offer a hook laden set that 30 years ago would’ve seen them quickly signed to 4AD and out touring with label mates Pixies and Belly, both of whom offer reference points for their sound. With a set drawn from debut album “In The Undergrowth”, there is a lot of enjoy in their mid-west alternative guitar sound and they are rightly well received. By contrast, Ohio’s Heart Attack Man offer something heavier and more entrenched in the alt-punk of the 2000s, their heavy riff and beat driven songs striking a chord with many present during an energy sapping enthusiastic set drawn from across four of their albums to date.

In the apt setting of a former chapel, it’s clear though that tonight’s congregation have gathered for the headliners. From the off, the crowd from the barrier back are hooked on every word, singing along to opener “Lifers”, singer Dylan Slocum’s every word coming back at him. Here as four piece (bassist Trevor Dietrich having stepped back from touring), Slocum offers a towering back lit presence centre stage, his broken voice delivery, that of a man who lost the lottery ticket the one week his numbers came in, giving emotional heft to the heartfelt lyrics he delivers whilst wrestling licks from his Telecaster. To his right, guitarist Kyle McAuley is an animated presence, long hair flying amidst the hooks and riffs unleashed whilst keyboardist Meredith van Woert is a head down presence over her keys across the stage, drummer Ruben Duarte tying things down from the back.

It’s no surprise that “No Joy” offers the backbone of the set providing eight of the seventeen songs played, a decision that plays well with the heaving mass at the front and stair standers further back alike, the anthemic quality of the latest output perfectly delivered in cementing the emotional connection between band and fans. Older cuts “Buffalo Buffalo” and “Bellyache” make an appearance, but by the time “Haunted” from “No Joy” gets dropped towards the end it’s an upbeat rousing singalong that offers catharsis for all present. 

It’d be the most on brand thing for Spanish Love Songs to find commercial and critical approval just in time for a global apocalypse but, if the sabre rattlers in international power hold off, don’t be surprised to find Slocum and his band upstairs selling out the main Institute room next time round. Make sure you are there to catch them.

Words and pictures: Geoff Shaw
X: @gshawisme
IG: @gsmusicphotos