LIVE: The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – Sound Control, Manchester 24/11/2016

Walking the streets of Manchester on any given day you’re likely to see a fair few kids in trench coats and goggles, but it’s still a surprise to see so many of them gathered together under the gas streetlamps of old Manchester town. It’s suddenly understandable though when you realise the Victoriana Roadshow is in town, courtesy of steampunk oddballs The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing.

There’s only one support tonight in the Sound Control vault, and it’s The Men’s own guitarist and stand-up Andrew O’Neill. A seasoned pro on both the comedy and festival circuit, O’Neill is like a more vociferous Rob Newman, mixing absurdist comedy with short ditties strummed on his acoustic guitar about all manner of random subjects. As with many a good comedian, hecklers are O’Neill’s bread and butter as he puts down over-enthusiastic fans with aplomb and it’s an inspired yet obvious choice of support on a miserable evening, warming the hearts of everyone in the cold, dark basement.

O’Neill returns half an hour later to lead The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing into battle, all four members clambering on stage with smiles on faces as they attack their punky yet effortlessly catchy set. For those yet to witness this particular spectacle, The Men dress in full steampunk regalia and sing about Victorian engineers, 19th Century diseases and the glorious age of the chimney sweep. Yes it’s odd, it’s unique, it’s supremely tongue-in-cheek, but most importantly it’s hugely inventive.

O’Neill naturally takes a lead on the between-song banter, but bassist Marc Burrows holds his own well, even going solo on Princess Charlotte, a track from his Before Victoria side project, leaving vocalist Andy Heintz to focus on his quiet giant persona which is in equal parts terrifying and strangely lovable.

Music-wise there’s something for everyone tonight. O’Neill switches between death metal growls and glam squeals as Heintz stalks the stage like a mascara’d panther for most of the set, pausing only for some bendy saw action on Poor Georgie. The overlapping vocal lines of Burrows, O’Neill and Heintz on recent video This House Is Not Haunted create a really powerful atmosphere live, while Steph(v)enson is the most bouncy history lesson you’re ever likely to encounter.

A cholera-strength encore of Margate Fhtagn, The Kinks’ Victoria and Brunel sees the crowd veer wildly between swirling headbangs and ceiling-worrying leaps, bringing tonight’s fun to a suitably manic end. Proof if ever it were needed that The Men are far from being a gimmick; this band have got songs to back up the show, and are only going to go from strength to strength with gigs like this.