Writer Jimmy Dougan / Photographer Maddie Cottam-Allan
The Dark Horse chills contentedly in the centre of Moseley Village, the black and gold frontage giving way to the kind of bar that could easily be slipped into a verse of ‘Fairytale of New York’ without anyone noticing. Tonight it’s bustling, lit by an infinitesimal number of candles and fairy lights.
In the pink-lit upstairs venue, there’s something in the air – the anticipatory, hopeful spark that something very special might be about to happen. Two notes for the unaware.
Firstly, Dimes were formed in mid-2021.
This quartet describes their sound as being no frills, no gimmicks rock ‘n roll. When I first saw Dimes live back in May, I was struck by the startling vein of anger coursing under everything they do, the damning indictment of our cruel and vacuous neoliberal culture in their snappy lyrics.
They ask, time and time again, how did we end up here? What went wrong? Could we not be doing things differently? They demand an answer.
Secondly, Dimes’ drummer, Simon Dunn, works at The Dark Horse.
The home-field advantage is strong, and the crowds come through. Within ten minutes of doors opening the venue is packed, and cries of “up the Dimes!” ring through it.
Two support acts kick us off: first up are Exotic Pets, proving appearances can absolutely be deceiving. Their warm, affable presence quickly gives way to a distinctly low-fi garage punk. One song sees them repeatedly, “I want to drink your blood”.
It’s initially quite funny, then oddly romantic.
Up next it’s Otherless, formerly known as EXHALER. My ears prick up towards the end of their set, which contains their strongest work: guitars become warped and elastic, drums slide towards staccato, words giving way to sounds. It’s challenging, provocative stuff. I’m reminded of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or maybe even Angelo Badalamenti’s work on Twin Peaks: The Return.
As the tension in the room reaches fever pitch, Dimes finally appear. They’re unpretentious and direct, purposeful and clear. Tom Carwardine on vocals takes a minute. Do the lights catch a glimmer of pride in his eyes, or a smile curling at the corner of his mouth? Perhaps. He’s an excitingly enigmatic presence.
The crowd are losing it – a few of the staff have snuck off the bar too, and gladly add their howls to the chorus – but the band aren’t fazed. As we start off with the now iconic ‘State Run Press’, James paces and gesticulates: Dimes have a point to make, and they’re pissed. You quickly come to realise that Tom isn’t pacing, he’s prowling. He beats his chest, his brow furrows.
As we move into ‘Violent Undertones’ the moshing begins. When I last saw Dimes back in May, I was impressed. Tonight is next level. There’s a polish to this performance that you can’t help but get swept along by, a watertight dramaturgical logic expertly calibrated to get the crowd going. Nothing is superfluous.
The sound is incredible and hits us like a brick wall, props to the venue. Midway through their set when Tom casually thanks us all for coming, our reply is so loud I worry my eardrums might pop.
Watching Dimes is a communal experience – they’ve quickly carved out a real niche in the Birmingham music scene, and their reward has manifested itself as a loyal following which earnestly engages with the politics of the lyrics.
In an age revealing itself to be defined by shallow commercialism and ideological cowardice, it’s thoroughly refreshing to see a band grapple with such unashamedly political themes. Dimes are at their most thrilling when they lean into their sludge metal influences as they do on ‘Crony Capital’ and ‘Coming Down’.
The abrasive harshness of the lyrics melts into the political and aligns itself perfectly with relentlessly heavy drumming and roaring strings. The bass feels like being dragged across concrete.
It’s clear that Dimes aren’t out to seduce the unconverted but are here to galvanise the angry, huddled masses. The image they paint of modern Britain is a grim one, a decaying nation ruled by crony capitalists and scumbag charlatans being dismantled and sold into oblivion. Scrap the railways, let the nurses burn.
Dimes don’t claim to have any solutions, but watching them perform live the possibility of a wholly different society emerges; I am filled, not infrequently, with hope. I genuinely cannot wait to see what’s next for this electric and viscerally engaging quartet.
Up the Dimes indeed.
For more from Dimes go to: www.dimesbhx.com
For more from The Dark Horse go to: www.darkhorsemoseley.co.uk