Mark Beaumont Presents The Purple Lights, London
No-one could ever accuse East London twosome The Purple Lights are taking life too seriously. Bleach haired rock god Rob Fincham, guitarist and lead singer, and their enigmatic dreadlocked drummer Akeba saunter up on stage with all the casual manner of someone having a jam in a mate's garage rather than headlining an NME journalist's personally curated showcase. Nerves? If they're experiencing any then they're pretty good at hiding them.
Nor should they be nervous. They're one of the hardest working underground bands in Britain, both in terms of constant live appearances and new songs. A week before the show they shared the first track from their new EP, the enrapturing Afro-beat infused 'Try So Hard'. There's no room for it in the set tonight though, as they've got another new song on their hands, 'Wake Up', an incitement to rise up and react against the current backsliding political mess of Trump/Brexit we currently find ourselves in.
At least their set opener has remained pretty constant over a summer that's taken them from Glastonbury appearances to the nearby Roundhouse, who have adopted them as resident artists for 2017. 'Rain' fits the bill perfectly, anyway, starting quiet and slowly building to a powerchord-blasting chorus, Fincham's echo-y guitar work no doubt sending shivers down spines across the Monarch. Before long they are locked into a powerful groove, the heavy momentum of Akeba's reggae rhythms finding an unlikely but ultimately very natural sounding counterpoint in Fincham's riffs, flurries and soaring vocals.
They exude the kind of supreme confidence that only constant gigging can provide, but rather than creating arrogance it gives them the space to relax and have fun. Sometimes it even looks like they're playing more to impress each other than the audience, but at the same time they have a strong, serious message wrapped up in all the fun. 'Triggerman' is a great example of this. Yes, it's a passionate plea against the mindlessness of gun crime with a refrain, “triggerman - put that gun down.” But it's also a chance for Akeba to use his drumstick as a pretend gun, shoot Rob to the floor, then emerge from behind his kit to pick him up before they finish off the track in a blizzard of ska skanking.
Undoubtedly the most immediate song in their collection though, is the title track from their forthcoming second EP, 'Not Alone'. It's a sweetly-centred slow reggae workout dripping with the catchiest of hooks, augmented with looped up effects and, as ever, blessed with a chorus to die for.
Is it their best song? It might be. Then again, it's quite possible that they've written an even better one in the time it took you to read this review. It's certainly a good place to start.
Text by Ben Willmott 11/10/2017