©2005 Stuart Leech -

by Armchair Anarchist

Brighton’s The Kooks look like extras from Grange Hill – the Tucker years, but to be fair so do a good percentage of the audience. They launch enthusiastically into a bright and poppy set of mod-ish tunes, bouncing around the stage with energy and conviction. Their music fits the look nicely - new-wave with hints of post-mod, ska and reggae. There’s plenty of space in the off-beat guitar chops and they’re easy on the overdrive. The delivery is accomplished and they have great stage presence but suffer from drawing on too many similar influences. They sound so ‘current’ that they’ll be out of date by the time they ‘make it’. But anyone who likes Jo Whiley’s playlists will find something to enjoy here. It’s very contemporary guitar-pop, but they’re never going to leave venues burnt to the ground. Headliners The Subways, however, have that elusive magic that encourages obsessive fandom. They erupt onto the stage like a raucous guitar-music melting-pot. Like many of the best rock acts of the last few decades their appeal is based on that ‘hey, I could do that’ sound. They will inspire a thousand new college bands in the next year or so. Simple, catchy riffs dominate, drawing on punk and grunge and everything in between. They make a huge driving racket for a three-piece - and take up enough space with their frantic antics that the stage still seems full. The drummer has a vendetta against the skins of his minimalist kit, bludgeoning them with psychotic aggression. All three members play tight and hard. Everything melts together to produce effortless hooks and choruses. But what seals the deal is their peerless crowd rapport. The audience are clapping to the kick drum half way through the first song, egged on by the singer/guitarist. He has a neat line in leaping and bounding and more than once abandons his instrument to clamber on top of the speaker stacks to exhort the ecstatic crowd. The encore consists of the forthcoming single (disappointingly Oasis-esque) and the redeeming simplicity of big hit ‘Rock and Roll Queen’. This sees the guitarist crowd surfing, shedding his shirt while the drums and bass hold down the tempo before the climactic meltdown. The crowd are absolutely smitten. Barring foolish direction changes, The Subways are going to devastate audiences for some time to come.