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Gig Review: Jockstrap @ The Fleece

Jockstrap's whiplash-inducing live show is refreshingly uncanny and surreal.

Jockstrap / Eddie Whelan

By Sam Cox, Digital Music Editor

On the back of their new album, I Love You Jennifer B, London’s Jockstrap brought their uncanny brand of chaos, joy and uncertainty to a mesmerised audience at The Fleece.  

Formed in 2017 at Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Jockstrap’s Taylor Skye and Georgia Ellery are as much thespians as they are musicians. Theirs is a brand of pop whose unexpected twists and turns belong firmly on the stage as they aptly demonstrated on the Bristol leg of their U.K. tour in support of their whiplash-inducing debut LP. The group are largely thought of in the collective consciousness of critics and fans as something of a side-project to Black Country, New Road (the two projects share a member in Ellery) but this association does them a huge disservice.

Jockstrap / Sam Cox

This is not a criticism of Black Country, New Road, whose second album is already vying for Album of the Year alongside Kendrick Lamar and Big Thief (which is no mean feat), but is instead a celebration of Jockstrap’s own, unique vision. They do, however, succeed where Black Country, New Road fall short; in their ability to defy genre, to bravely push boundaries and to sound truly contemporary. While they’re inevitably linked with South London’s so-called ‘Windmill Scene’, their music is a more appropriate bedfellow of experimental electronic mavericks such as Aya, Tirzah and fellow Guildhall alumnus Mica Levi.

Their new record, three years in the making, is front-and-centre in their live set, where each of the ten tracks get a run out, amongst a handful of singles (and a rip-roaring encore of I Want Another Affair - Taylor Skye Remix, perhaps their most unashamedly fun moment to date). That they don’t miss a single song from I Love You Jennifer B is a testament to its impressiveness as a singular artistic statement. Essential though the album is, however, their live set manages to exceed it in sound and in scope. Aptly for a Bristol audience, Ellery’s vocal soars in a way that pays homage, consciously or unconsciously, to the trip-hop whisperings and nuance of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, while Skye’s mad-scientist keyboard and synth set-up and dead-pan, thousand-yard stare recalls a 21st century Ron Mael of Sparks.

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Jockstrap are a band who thrive on contradiction. The loud and the quiet, the realist and the expressionist, the conventional and the idiosyncratic; these contrasts are dividing lines which are ever-present on their album but which are writ large in a live setting. The disparity between the sweeping beauty of their acoustic songs and the bombastic playfulness of their more electronic numbers is made more absurd, more jarring, but certainly more gorgeous on the stage. If their debut LP is built upon foundations of the bizarre and the unexpected, their live show flourishes upon such principles. In a period in which so many new acts inhabit a persona of peculiarity that seems gratuitous and forced, Jockstrap are so refreshing because they are genuinely, believably surreal.

Featured image: Eddie Whelan

What's your favourite track from the new Jockstrap LP?