Spring Offensive, Adam Barnes

Sam Lee 09/09/2010

You've got to admit it; Oxford's got a pretty good reputation for spitting out bloomin' brilliant bands, hasn't it? Spring Offensive are the latest bunch of hopefuls to poke their heads out from Oxford's bustling underground scene and, having just released their thirteen-minute-long mega-single 'The First Of Many Dreams About Monsters', they've been getting those 'in the know' a little bit hot under the collar lately.

But even so, there's a slight lack of interest shown by the crowd tonight as Spring Offensive self-consciously amble onto the cramped stage (the ceiling's barely high enough to accommodate the lofty frontman Lucas) and quietly introduce themselves.

Their opening tracks, 'I Found Myself Smiling' and 'Every Coin' pretty much sum up what Spring Offensive are all about. With elements of math-rock and heavier alt-rock, consistently reined in by an underlying pop sensibility, they see the whole band pulsating as one while Lucas writhes like a madman as he frantically clasps his hands behind his back.

But the highlight of the set comes in the form of the epic '...Monsters'. Sounding even punchier and energetic than it does on the record, it is delivered with absolute conviction and almost unsettling accuracy. There are a few awkward moments in between the separate sections of the four-part track, during which the crowd seems to be trying to decide whether or not they should be applauding (the band later tell me that they're thinking about dropping it from their live set because of this), but it's easy to ignore these lulls when each and every chapter of the song is such a perfect blend of beauty and darkness, jam-packed with intoxicating highs and murky, atmospheric lows.

Despite the sometimes dark nature of their music, the mood onstage is surprisingly light-hearted as Lucas and guitarist Matt casually tell stories and joke in between songs. And, although the final song 'A Let Down' doesn't quite live up to '...Monsters', it shows a more accessible side to Spring Offensive, something that doesn't go unnoticed by the crowd, who finally come close to reciprocating the energy of the band.

Tonight Spring Offensive showed just why the likes of Huw Stephens and Tom Robinson have been getting so excited about them. For every dark moment in a song, often in the shape of lyrics such as “You should slide into the river, like the rat that you are”, there's a moment of extraordinary beauty. Every cacophonous beat is juxtaposed by gentle sweeping guitars, every guttural shriek reinforced by gorgeous harmonies. The fact that the crowd didn't quite give them the reaction they deserved can perhaps be explained by the fact that they were lower down the bill than they maybe should have been - but this won't be the case for long.