When the headliners take the stage at The Mash House, it’s already been a good night. Openers Spectacular Primate Disaster sound like a Livingston Mclusky, and if that makes sense to you, you need to check them out. During their best bits, support Whitehill Grove are all good hair, post-punk pop and angular guitar licks – like so much of the best Scottish pop. Then Catholic Action come on, and in kicking it up a notch make it clear why they’re being tipped as the next big thing, with a recent Maida Vale session behind them and a forthcoming BBC Introducing showcase spot at this year’s SXSW.
Singer and guitarist Chris McCrory holds centre stage like a Rocks-era Bobby Gillespie transplanted into a skinny white polo neck, and the band launch into Doing Well. The opening song lays down a marker that this set is going to be all about the hooks, and comparisons to the early, energetic incarnation of Teenage Fanclub make sense. Before long, the lads up the front are swaying arm-in-arm and the skinny girls further back are grooving away. As soon as Doing Well is disposed of, it’s straight into the glam rock stomp of L.U.V., which recalls Travis when they were still fun. Now, four pals off to the right have formed an impromptu mosh pit.
It’s clear that Catholic Action aren’t being spoken of as the next big thing just because they look the part. Unlike the early Fannies, Catholic Action have got the live chops. The interplay between the guitars of McCrory and lead guitarist Andrew Macpherson is tight as hell. The singer’s harmonies with bassist Jamie Dubber hit the mark. When he asks – apparently a propos of nothing – if we prefer “long or short” the answer allows for a Motorik-style unwinding of NME new music favourite Rita Ora, pinned down by Dubber and the metronomic beat of drummer Ryan Clark.
Toss in a small number of other songs and it’s a short, tight set. But that feels right. Catholic Action are enforcing top quality control with these tunes, and there should be plenty of time to hear a lot more. As endearing, seemingly ramshackle, The Wash promises in its Californian Crooked Rain-period Pavement style, the best is yet to come for Catholic Action.