In the year 2020, showmanship feels like a distant concept. Never before has a year so harshly questioned the concept and existence of a frontman, with no stages to command or fans to leave in a frenzy from your front room. But pressing play on Femur’s new offering, Misery Express, I’m honestly having a hard time not flipping my coffee table and chucking my mug of coffee across the room.
If there’s one word to describe Sheffield’s Femur, it would be showmanship. To try describing what I mean for anyone who hasn’t been to a Femur gig, allow me to build you an image:
It’s nearing midnight on a Friday, it’s the first night of Sheffield’s Tramlines and you’re crammed into a basement venue (Covid doesn’t exist in this imaginary world, no social distancing necessary). All your friends are there and suddenly you’re screaming in their face. The second Femur start playing the entire room is moving and you’re thankful you’re in a basement and not an attic. You’re trying your best to avoid the intense, almost-terrifying eye contact of any band member as you seem to all slip into a trance, and not a calm one. The lead singer, Felix Renshaw, is likely wearing a cowboy hat as his tall frame commands the audience like a kind of messiah. Drummer Danny Cox will likely break his drum sticks and splash blood across the kit within the first song or two. For the 3-minute track, everyone loses it and when it finishes, you can’t help but laugh as you clap your hands raw and scream your throat sore. When I talk about Femur’s showmanship, I mean that, like a kind of return to being 17 again and stuck in a room with all your friends who are excited to be there and just lose it.
The band have a unique and natural presence like all the best live acts, but so many bands could learn a thing or two from Femur. While the chaos takes place, the band’s sound stays tight and perfected. Even in their heaviest and loudest break downs, you can hear skill, never letting their songs slip into just being noise. It’s this that lets the Femur experience be faultlessly translated from gigs to recordings, filtering that energy through your headphones until we can return to venues. Listening to Misery Express is like getting a heavy dose of the adrenaline of live punk music, without being left with the ringing headache.
Press play on Misery Express and you’ll hear it immediately. Taking a slight move away from their previous psyche-rock vibes on tracks, like Second Twin, Misery Express feels more punk fueled. With the sharp drums and tight guitar, the intro pushes your body into movement through its familiarity, sounding like the inside of every punk fan’s brain with it’s exciting happy heaviness.
But what makes Misery Express perk your ears up is the signature Femur twist. A lot of bands try to call themselves psychedelic cowboys, but Femur actually are. Dropping down from the chaos into a controlled and luxurious groove, the song is treated to a secondary western influence, as the band turn cult leaders gripping control of their crowd. I can see it now, bodies all swaying in time during the interlude, singing along to the band’s hypnotically drawling doo-dah-day bridge. Oh to be dancing at a gig again… oh for singing to not be illegal…
In the meantime, Misery Express lets you feel like you’re back in the good times for 3mins 44seconds. Carrying all the energy and spirit of live music, but crafted with carefully composed chaos, Femur are showing us exactly how new music should sound right now; exciting and well-made with passion and energy blasting through your headphones until it can be coming through amps again. Balancing clear skill with an intense love for what they do, Misery Express is another big reason why Femur should be a band to watch, first on my list to see live when they can bring their magic back stage-side.