LIVE: Puppy @ The Garage, London

By Aaron Jackson

2022 has already been a busy year for Puppy. Of course, the standout reason for this is the release of their warmly received second full-length album ‘Pure Evil’ in May. Not content with sitting still after such a landmark, the London three-piece launched into a headline tour (aptly dubbed ‘Tour Evil’) just about a week after the record dropped. Culminating in a homecoming show in the capital city, it was The Garage’s turn to host and bring an end to a whistle-stop tour of the UK.

Rather than taking the conventional approach of blaring a playlist of hits from similar artists before taking to the stage, Puppy opted instead to loop ambient noises that sounded as though they could have been plucked from some dungeon or castle based video game from the 90s. Initially a nice touch to add to the aesthetics set by the crude-but-effective stage design, it did start to cause a brain itch after about 15 minutes, and so it was a relief when the band took their positions.

Puppy proceeded to kick off their final show of this tour in the same way that they opened up ‘Pure Evil’. ‘Shining Star’ is an introduction that’s as gorgeously indulgent as they come, with just the one strident chord ringing out over and over again. Essentially, Puppy are out here doing what bedroom musicians around the world dream of – playing their instruments loudly to an appreciative audience, and it’s a joy to witness.

Often likened to alt-rock heritage such as The Smashing Pumpkins and Dinosaur Jr, what sets Puppy apart from those forefathers is their frequent flirtations with the doomier side of heavy music. Dark textures with crushing riffs and an overarching atmosphere that feels prog-driven are all pivotal to Puppy’s music and overall aesthetic as an outfit. Not only do these heavier inclinations provide countless highlights on their studio output, but they really help them shine in a live setting.

Namely, the breakneck ‘My Offer’ was a welcome addition to the show and stood out as a clear highlight of the evening. Ticking all the boxes, fans were treated to a riff-laden number with a breakdown that’s impossible not to headbang to, all the while decorated with a killer guitar solo. Never missing a beat, the technical proficiency of this London three-piece was duly showcased in London that night. Notably so when frontman Jock Norton deconstructed a guitar refrain into a clever call and response exercise with the audience, conducting them to sing along with his six-string.

Despite Tour Evil taking place hot off the heels of the band’s most recent release, the setlist was balanced and acknowledged their full discography. With five songs performed from the new record, the remaining eight tracks spanned across previous releases from 2019’s impressive LP ‘The Goat’, all the way back to 2015’s debut self-titled EP. It was a welcome surprise that showcased the wide breadth of what Puppy can offer both newly garnered fans and long-standing ones.

With this in mind, Puppy bowed out with what remains to be seen as their quintessential track by plenty. The devilishly simple yet effective riff of ‘Entombed’ elicited roars of approval from the crowd and eventually saw their energy bubble over into a brief pit of limbs. Every word was shouted back at the band, with Norton leaving the duty of crooning the song’s title to his audience. It was an appropriate end to the evening, with the London three-piece very much deserving of these demonstrations of approval from the audience.

Overall, the experience was relatively short at just around an hour but, most importantly, it was sweet. A well-rounded setlist did comprehensive justice to the impressive discography of a band that still has plenty of time and space to experiment and develop. With festival season comfortably underway, there won’t be any slowing down from Puppy this year just yet; currently penned in are appearances at 2000trees, ArcTanGent, Outbreak and Bigfoot. There truly is no rest for the wicked.