LIVE: Puppy @ The Joiners, Southampton

By Danny Randon

For 40 minutes on a balmy September evening, the hallowed stage of Southampton’s Joiners Arms is ablaze with plumes of hot pink fire. There’s no real pyrotechnics here, just two flame effect lights – the sort you’d find in a backstreet hippie shop between the incense sticks and dragon statues – which, if anything, add to the devilish aura surrounding tonight’s main attraction.

Fresh from revealing that their long-awaited debut album ‘The Goat’ will get 2019 off to a ferocious start, Puppy have finally been let off the leash for their debut headline jolly around the UK. It’s about time too for the London trio, since their melding of melody and macabre has made them one of the most intriguing British breakthroughs of recent years.

When it comes to spinkicking the show into motion, Grove Street Families don’t have to worry one bit about proving their worth on hometown turf. It’s been one whole year since the Southampton mob have unleashed crossover carnage on their own patch, but in the time they’ve been away their stomp has become harder and the shred of their guitars leaner.

From the moment they march on stage to the Terminator theme tune and bust out the gargantuan opening riff of ‘Entombed’, Puppy are like the sonic equivalent of staring into the Ark of the Covenant. The dynamic duo of Will Michael and Billy Howard bring the tar-thick low end complete with bells, whistles, fills and indeed thrills while front man Jock Norton, who happens to be celebrating his 29th year on this mortal coil tonight, is on inspired form. The singer/guitarist hits peak mystique with his Billy Corgan-meets-Papa Emeritus falsetto, all while peeling off licks that are spicier than Ainsley Harriott’s shirt collection.

Hot-off-the-press single ‘Black Hole’, along with a couple more teasers of ‘The Goat’, already stand hoof-to-hoof with fan favourites ‘The Great Beyond’ and ‘Arabella’. However, it’s the final chug of ‘Demons’ that draws the night to an all-too-early close with a surge of sinister energy.

With a headline tour finally under their belts, it won’t be a case of ‘always the bridesmaid…’ for these raisers of merry hell. Forget the pig – 2019 will be the Year of the Puppy.