Wolf Gang, S.C.U.M, Niki and the Dove – NME Radar Tour Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

REVIEW: Solent Male Voice Choir, St Mary’s Church, Hayling Island

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IT was a Tuesday night, and the Wedgewood Rooms was sparsely populated for the NME new bands showcase.

So what did you miss?

The NME Radar tour, a national tour ‘presenting’ three bands the magazine thinks may, or at least should, make it big, could be accused of bringing unfair comparisons.

After all, this year’s line-up was advertised with reminders that other bands to have been on the annual showcase have included Maximo Park, and it’s asking a bit much for any relatively new band to live up to the Newcastle group’s frenetic live shows.

Even so. Niki and the Dove took to the stage first, looking like a singer who was all beads and facepaint, and two men who looked like extras from a L’Oreal advert.

Perched on a ledge at the back of the hall, like the spookily overattentive figurine everyone’s nan has on their mantelpiece (you know the one I mean, and it freaks you out too), I was at first surprised at singer Malin Dahlström’s apparent attempts to perform like Kate Bush. But as the set continued, it became clear that for all the Swedish group’s faults (including a song-closer which appeared to be a looped recording of the sound of a brick smashing into a tree) Dahlstrom has a remarkable voice, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.

A lot has been said in praise of S.C.U.M., but none of it seems to answer the question, ‘Who would like S.C.U.M?’ Based on last night, the answer is first, people who think The Horrors’ second album was a work of genius, rather than an overblown goth folly. Second, people who think Iggy Pop was okay, but would have been better if he was more of a fan of heavy prog, and third, people who think Placebo would have been good, rather than just a little better, if Brian Molko was less whiney.

That makes it sound like S.C.U.M are terrible. They aren’t. They have a big sound, and their last song, which featured some excellent organ work, was breathtaking. But more of that, and fewer attempts to bring back 1983, would have made me happier.

And Wolf Gang. Wolf Gang appear to be two different bands. When they play guitar, they’re angular, with a light touch. When they play keyboards, they’re like Lego, by which I mean plastic and stick-together-y. That’s a good thing in Lego, but not so much in a band.

However, they came out of last night’s gig weighted very much towards the former. They may yet prove to be a little too lightweight, and there’s a suspicion they too are very heavily indebted to mid 80s pop of the sort which was obviously rubbish at the time, but now seems to have become inexplicably acceptable. But they’ve got some songs, and they’re worth a listen. Maximo Park? Well, probably not. But there’s potential in all three of these bands, and fingers crossed they can recognise it.

RORY O’KEEFFE