Thursday, April 28

Hot Hot Heat / The Departure @ Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Whippet thin and elegantly coiffured, The Departure look like they've stepped straight out of a clothing catalogue. It's post punk in sensible clothes, with shirts and smart/casual jumpers agogo. Apart from the guitarist that is - who with a red neckerchief and flat cap on, looks like he's straight off to a nearby gay bar after the gig.

The Northampton band make the classic mistake of playing their best song 'Be My Enemy' (D!HP 25th best single of 2004) first. This ensures that they receive a warm ovation from the crowd, but it's downhill all the way from then on.

All the classic post punk ingredients are there; jagged guitars, stop/start dynamics, obtuse lyrics and a slightly pained vocal delivery. The trouble is, these boys bring nothing new to the table, showing a startling lack of originality.

It's not that they are a bad band, far from it in fact. My left foot is tapping away which is always a sign that I think a band has some good tunes - it's only when my right joins in, that a band is truly excellent though. And on this occasion, my size 11 trainer is distinctly unmoved.

The Departure are the Northampton Town of indie. A solid, unambitious, mid-table lower league band.

"Who is here to see Hot Hot Heat then?" Asks singer David Jones near the end of their set. "....Oh, well I suppose you all are really aren't you..."

Why reach for the top when you can settle for mediocrity, eh lads?

Canadian foursome Hot Hot Heat on the other hand, are firmly gunning for promotion to indie's Premiership. With their second album 'Elevator' in the shops for just two days, this is their first date of a highly anticipated UK tour.

They keep the crowd waiting and are a little worse for wear, confessing to jetlag, but before they even play a note you can see they look fantastic.

One of the two guitar players is left handed and they stand either side on the stage with guitar necks pointing outwards a la The Beatles. Centre stage is singer/keyboardist Steve Bays and you really can't keep your eyes off him.

He swaggers around the stage microphone in one hand, playing the keyboard with the other, getting just close enough to the crowd so they can get a fleeting touch of him. And the hair...oh the hair. It's truly exceptional!

A mass of tight curls, they bounce up and down as he scampers around the stage, ringlets brilliantly sillhouted against the backdrop by spotlights.

The soldout crowd are in the palm of his hands as the band hurtle through new tracks like 'Ladies and Gentlemen' and 'Dirty Mouth', mixed with old favourites from 'Make Up The Breakdown'.

"You guys know all the words already" chirps Steve, as the audience sings along to another new one - "The Internet is cool".

Inevitably the set ends with 'Bandages', their big hit from a couple of years ago. And almost as inevitable is that most of the crowd know every word.

An encore follows featuring 'Oh Goddamnit' and as the curfew looms they take a bow, before the venue lights go up.

It's been a top class performance by these young lads from Canada, and stunning play from the curly haired fella up front. Elevation to the indie Premiership should be all but assured.