Formed from the ashes of Milburn and Union City, The Backhanded Compliments are Tom Rowley (Vocals & Guitar), Ryan Sellars (Bass) and Joe Green (Drums). Being a massive Milburn fan I got into these guys pretty much as soon as they started. Fast forward a year and a bit later and I finally got to see them live supporting Reverend and The Makers at the HMV Picture House.
The Backhanded Compliments almost seem like a natural progression from Milburn - darker, heavier and more mature but still with the same Northern charm. The biggest difference lies in the nature of the lyrics. BHC's lyrics are more cryptic, even sinister at times, which sets them apart from most modern day indie bands. In fact only Tom's vocals, sung with a strong Sheffield accent, will give critics an excuse to label them "indie". That's not to say his voice is generic though. In fact it's pretty unique, harsher than Joe Carnall's, it suits the band's songs perfectly.
Unfortunately, thanks to a stupidly early stage time, not many people were inside the Picture House by the time The Backhanded Compliments took to the stage. Which is a shame considering they put in an exceptional performance. For being a three piece they make an insane amount of noise. To have a sound that fills an almost empty 1500 capacity venue is no mean feat but these guys make it look easy. It’s obvious that, individually, the three of them are outstanding musicians. Tom manages to produce layer upon layer of guitar work (which includes some superb riffs) and still pull off a perfect vocal performance whilst Ryan quietly holds everything together on bass. However the real star of the show has to be Greeny, I've genuinely never seen anyone drum with such ferocity and pace. He truly has to be one of the best drummers I've ever had the pleasure of seeing live.
My only complaint would be that their set was far too short, it felt like second support Yves Klein Blue (who also put on an impressive display) were on for twice as long as The Backhanded Compliments. Nonetheless, the six or seven songs they did play - which included my favourite, Master of Disguise, and the awesome The Devil Digs Down - showcased their ability and, if they conversation I overheard after they finished is anything to go by, managed to make a good few people take note.
I can honestly say that, even if Reverend and The Makers weren't fantastic as always, it would still have been worth the lonely journey to Edinburgh and the £18 (!) train fare just to see The Backhanded Compliments live. These guys are well worth checking out; imagine Milburn meets some of the songs from Humbug, only a lot more intricate. Add a hint of Queens of The Stone Age plus some Nick Cave inspired lyrics and you're almost there. Then again, as always, I'm biased.
The Devil Digs Down;
Master of Disguise;