Live Reviews

Freinds of Manchester Festival 2010 – Reviews
The performance that local regulars Optional Wallace turn is a beefy one this evening. Supporting their politicised rock with aggressive guitar, militaristic drumming and loose, low bass, they let the music do the talking, each member showcasing their individual talents in turn. The noise they emit fills every inch of the vaulted space with concentrated riffs, shifting rhythms and crashing choruses leaving more than one crowd member mumbling “Placebo” and “early-Manics” in quick succession. “Nobody listens, nobody cares” they emote in exasperation. Those present are not inclined to agree.

Optional Wallace finally go on about half an hour after they were meant to (which compared to last year’s festival is almost early), nailing their colours to the mast literally in the form of a green and gold (United fans against the Glazers) shirt dangling from a cymbal stand – as actually wearing it visibly may have resulted in hypothermia. I know it’s January, but there are these things called radiators… Singer/guitarist Danny Foster has probably kept his heavy coat on for purely practical reasons but it kind of fits with their classic Mancunia (post-Chameleons spec). It’s urgent post-punk indie laced with darkness and claustrophobia, all frenzied drums and thunderous bass – and whilst the fashion for such things may have come and gone again it’s a sound that will never die in this city, it’s in the blood, and they do it a lot better than some more feted practitioners of such (no, no names, this is MM not NME).
Optional Wallace -Academy, Manchester. 18/07/2009

The usual step up from headlining your own small intimate gigs will see you generally filling the support slots for bigger names. The main change will be that you now know the audience are not there to see you and have in all honesty, probably never heard of you. Even though this is a daunting task to take on, any band serious enough about their craft will have to jump from playing to family and friends and take their music out to the critical masses.
With all of this taken into account and you find yourself opening for The Fall at a hometown show, this can only add to the pressure. Fans of Mark E Smith and his ever changing ensemble can be hard to please at the best of times and tonight will be no different.
At half past eight the venue is now over half full when the Manchester trio Optional Wallace take to the stage. On first appearance they may not give the impression of three blokes who would be in a band together. Danny Foster (vocals/guitar) is dressed very casually, Neil Meehan (Bass/backing vocals) is a tall imposing figure clad all in black with his face half hidden behind his fringe and Matt Anderson (drums) looking rather dapper in a shirt and tie with a tight fitting waistcoat.
As soon as they launch into their first song Code of Silence, all preconceptions are put aside. The fast paced guitars and Matt’s tribal drumming hit you like speeding train and continue to do so throughout the set. By the end of the next offering “Generation”, the crowd are starting to take more notice and seem to be warming to the hard, but melancholic sound they are hearing.
What Goes Around is fast and choppy and would not have been out of place on the infamous Factory Records label. Danny’s vocals are strong and clear and have a slight feel of Placebo front man Brian Molko. Neil’s bass playing style is frantic from start to finish as he thrashes away whilst occasionally stamping on his effect pedals.
During The Ladder and Movie Star they continue to impress and by the time they reach their last song the crowd have been well and truly won over. So as support slots go, this was a resounding success and Optional Wallace’s fan base will surely have grown from this short but sweet performance.
From The Fly Magazine – March 2009
Manchester – Band – OPTIONAL WALLACE It’s one of the weakest band names we’ve come across in a while but Optional Wallace prove that having a catchy name is only half the battle. For such a semi-innocent looking trio, these fellas can’t half strum a racket. Each track is an aural onslaught of hefty, soaring melodies, churning guitars and the melancholic delivery of Interpol. Next gig Dry Bar (2nd).

Review from Second City magazine – issue 3, Mar/Apr 2009:
Friends of Manchester Festival – Jabez Clegg – 21st Jan 2009
“I nip upstairs for 15 minutes at half-time to catch Optional Wallace on the Main Stage. An unfortunate slot to have been delayed for a band with a fewfellow reds in, but nevertheless they crack on with their dark post-punk indie-rock. My first viewing of the band in full, and having a copy of last year’s EP, it’s safe to say that they back up the quality shown on there in their live performance. The songs are as big as expected, with The Ladder sounding especially rambunctious. I said it when i reviewed their two-track, but fans of everything from Interpol to The Fall should embrace this.”
Daniel Alston
Surface Unsigned Festival Review
This manc 3 piece play with a punch and prove to be one of the tightest band of the night. They are obviously well rehearsed with structured songs that at last ooze with catchy hooks that you might whistle on your way home. Without wanting to sound biased being an honourary mancunian myself but there is a reason this city produces great bands and these guys are flying the flag. Hooks, hooks, hooks. With joy division moments of dark depression in verses to uplifting sweeping vocal melodies in the choruses this band have a formula they should stick with. Breath of fresh air!
Joe Wilson (


Nov 2008: The people over at have been listening to the latest demo and here’s what they made of it:
“Combining the oft-forgotten sound of post-punk with modern indie-rock, Manchester trio Optional Wallace welcome you into the darkness.
In this, their two-track demo, there is plenty to suggest that the band could follow in the wake of recent successes such as Interpol and The Editors with their driving riffs and crashing crescendos. A mix of the gloomy, sinister Psycho Candy-era The Jesus And Mary Chain, with clear, emphasised vocals that guide each track on its way to breakdown and disequilibrium.
Opener ‘What Goes Around’ has a chorus akin to Interpol, buoyed by the fact that the rest of the track is more varied than a lot done by the New Yorkers. ‘The Ladder’ is a thumping, energetic number that feels like it could unravel in any number of ways, opting to let loose a la early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Obvious lines are going to be drawn to some of Manchester’s finest bands of similar ilk. Joy Division, The Fall, even the louder side of The Chameleons.
And burgeoning out of a revived scene in the city, they’re mixing their influences of 20+ years ago with the dark sounds of here and now. And make no mistake, Optional Wallace are ticking all the right boxes.”

Live review of Optional Wallace at InTheCity 2008 from The Fly magazine:
“Next up three-piece Optional Wallace, winners in the crap band name stakes but equally good for blasting us away with their retro 90s Mansun/Placebo onslaught of dark noise. “I’m so fucking hung over” the singer tells us, we agree…”
Lisa Durrant – The Fly
Manchetsr Academy 3 – Sun 2nd Dec 2007
Sunday night, anyway, sees four of the regular fixtures of the year all on one rather excellent bill courtesy of Stuart “S.A. Promotions” Avery. “You reviewing tonight?” shouts Liam “Tides” Pennington at me on the stairs. The short answer? No. The long answer – not officially; I don’t think I can. This’ll be my sixth live encounter of 2007 with Juno Ashes and The Vanguard and my fourth with The Tides and Optional Wallace; I’ve written about them all a couple of times on ManchesterMusic, and I know pretty much all of them to some extent. I have paid my five pounds and I am having a night off…
It’s the biggest Manchester gig and biggest stage yet for The Vanguard, their first time through massive speakers; Optional Wallace have a couple of big support slots already under their belts but it’s the first time I’ve seen them somewhere with a proper PA; and both sound absolutely fantastic. Both deal in the type of powerful, emotionally charged, brickwork-rattling North West post-punk-indie-rock which needs power and volume and depth to be properly appreciated. The Vanguard are on first, but there’s an impressive number of people made the effort to get down for half seven and it’s fair to say those who’ve come for the other bands are pretty impressed. And with good reason; these are songs of bitter beauty which stay well clear of lyrical cliches whilst the guitars entwine and spiral over deep stormcloud bass and drums, stirring something deep in the heart of this old Chameleons fan and a few others too. It’s a shame they lose five minutes to an emergency guitar re-stringing, but to their credit that nobody seems to fuck off to the bar.
There are Chameleons echoes in Optional Wallace too; the three-piece are rooted in the faster, earlier end of the great band’s legacy, tight as anything tonight, but like The Vanguard there’s a present-day feel to their songs that puts them above those whose only interest is to resurrect sounds past.
by Cath Aubergine (

Optional Wallace @ Starkie’s Bar
Rob Allen – 30/10/2007 – Starkie’s Bar, Gigg Lane, Bury
Saturday 27 October
It’s a stadium show, but not as we know it. In a far corner of the ground at Bury’s Football Club’s Gigg Lane stadium there is a new gig opportunity for Manchester’s bands, to entertain the pre-match hordes attending FC United’s home games.
Prior to a the visit by a team from Osset it was the turn of the oddly monikered Optional Wallace.
One of the most active bands on the unsigned scene, setting up their own live nights in various pubs, their early career has been met with politeness rather than the enthusiasm they may have expected but after the best part of a year under cover, writing, rehearsing and recording they have returned as a new band.
The response to this show is best measured by the fact that the announcement that a clutch of CDs were waiting on a nearby windowsill for collection was met by people suddenly dashing from their seats to grab a copy. So assured was their performance that a shaky PA system sounded like it was custom built for the job.
The lead track on their recent demo, Moving Targets, has found itself snaking into the consciousness of local radio DJs and journalists and it was no less powerful on this occasion. Vocally capable and definitely able to wield their fuzzed up guitars without any more coaching there are shades of Placebo’s complex darkness spliced with the savvy, bass-led melodies of New Order.
It was either this potent mix or the heavy tater hash on offer from the bar that kept a pre-match football crowd glued to the spot and transfixed for every second they were on stage. For the sake of commending a great gig during daylight hours we’ll save our compliments for the chef and heap praise on Optional Wallace.
:: George Borowski :: Optional Wallace :: The Witches ::
21 October 2007 / The Garratt / Manchester
By Cath Aubergine
Fellow BUSK regulars OPTIONAL WALLACE are on next (the alternating stage set-up leaving little chance to catch your breath) – this is terse, powerful and ever-so-slightly doom-laden indie rock, administered with that tautness you only get in a three-piece. the Manchesters past in their sound are those of Magazine, early Chameleons, imposing waether formations over crumbling brickwork – but there’s a soaring indie-rock sensibility too in their urgent songs. And, of course, they’ve got an utterly fantastic name.
MOVING TARGETS * demo of the week *
:: Optional Wallace ::
23 July 2007 / Demo / 3 Trk CD
Members of Optional Wallace have been on the scene for quite a while now – as school kids they had bands that stole a march on the punk / alt.rock revival that finally hit the guitar scene in the noughties. They’re also a band who have been instrumental in forging their own acoustic and open mic nights long before the ‘rent-a-club’ scene blew up last year. How brilliant then, is it that “Moving Targets” is a melodic and searing gem of new wave that traverses the borders of EMO and rock, whilst championing semi-progressive movements of pulsing bass and searing guitar. The tumbling drums and magnificent bass of “Cling To The Ground” are incredibly exciting stuf. Two songs in and Optional Wallace are hooking you into a cascade of head nodding rock and superb, northern landscapes. “Code Of Silence” launches the guitars into a counter attack of siren guitars and rumbling chords before very cheekily plunging into choppy waves of modern indie, wound seamlessly into a rousing chorus. An intensely original and powerful EP – Their name is pretty un-rock and roll, but their music towers way above most demos. Big things.

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