Gig review: Self Esteem at Headrow House, Leeds

It's a brave move for an act to start their set with the only three tracks they've released to date. Yet this is precisely the format taken by Self Esteem, the new project from Slow Club's Rebecca Taylor.

Rebecca Taylor aka Self Esteem. Picture: Charlotte Patmore
Rebecca Taylor aka Self Esteem. Picture: Charlotte Patmore

That she pulls it off is a reflection on the quality and immediacy of the material. As commercial as her former band’s latter day output, it replaces their 80s synth-pop influences with borrowings from R&B.

Performed with just a live bassist (ex-PINS member Sophie Galpin) and a drummer, the emphasis is squarely on the rhythm section. The itchy percussion on ‘Your Wife’ and ‘Girl Crush’ have a vaguely African influence, while the backing track on ‘Wrestling’ gives it the modern soul minimalism of U.S. Girls. The acapella ‘She Reigns’, on which time is kept by finger clicks, more than proves the strength of Taylor’s vocals.

Despite having their roots in hip-hop, these ten tracks are nonetheless unashamedly pop. Taylor and her two female harmony vocalists wear matching ‘Believe Women’ red tops and they engage in the kind of basic choreography Bananarama would have attempted while dancing to 60s girl group bands.

It’s a lack of polished sheen that gives them charm while only just masking their ambition. Closing number ‘Favourite Problem’, which is driven by an e-piano, nearly teeters into X-Factor over-emotion and is crying out for a pop-tart cover. The material’s commercial intent is nonetheless couched in a message of female empowerment.

A positive and uplifting gig, it suggests that the band’s debut album – which is due out next March – will be highly recommended.