Wallows, Academy, Glasgow ***
There’s a lot of screaming at a Wallows gig, and a lot of singing along. In a near-capacity O2 Academy, it was heartening to see that a guitar-based group with songs built around a constructive, emotive lyrical style can still inspire such connection with a young audience.
We knew it was a young crowd because the Californian group’s lead singer Dylan Minnette first asked them to familiarise him with the legal drinking age in Scotland and then asked who was actually old enough to drink here – at which point the affirmative replies sounded to be only just in the majority.
A trio on record but a six-piece onstage, Wallows’ live sound blends a note of that US arena punk style which has been progressively watered down since Green Day emerged, with a gleaming, keyboard-loaded contemporary edge in the same lineage as, for example, the 1975. The set accommodated a triumphant lead trumpet part on Sun Tan and Minnette and drummer Cole Preston’s position switch for Quarterback, the latter’s vocals impassioned but more fragile.
It's also possible to watch them and be reminded of the Monkees, and not just because of their background. Minnette and guitarist Braeden Lemasters are sometime professional actors with a wealth of Netflix and minor movie roles behind them, and while there’s no hint of fabrication about their band, they have the same clean-cut pin-up potential.
That’s despite Minnette performing in a kilt (they’re huge fans of Glasgow, apparently) which showed off legs to match their weedy guy anthem Scrawny (“I’m a scrawny motherf***er with a cool hairstyle”). In general, their lyrics are a pleasing blend of pure but uncertain romance and the wider existential questioning of youth, and these are set to sharp melodies, like those of the careening I Don’t Want to Talk, the comforting synth-pop of OK and Wish Me Luck, and Just Like a Movie’s transatlantic C86 jangle.
There’s a predictability to what they do, but where it really works – the climactic orchestral keys of Guitar Romantic Search Adventure, or the reflective power-pop of Are You Bored Yet? – their power is undeniable.