Boy Kill Boy, iForward, Russia! The Automatic & The Long Blondes
NME Tour 2006, Cambridge Junction

Put four headline bands on the same tour, someone's going to suffer, and tonight it was The Long Blondes. We arrived about 7.40pm and they were already in full swing - well as full as you can get with what sounded like a Fisher Price PA, which didn't bode well for the rest of the evening. That said, their jangly strummy indie pop was going down pretty well and the place was already rammed, if not yet well oiled. A namecheck for the Bury St Edmunds fans went down well, there were some nice Siouxsie Sioux-ish moments and generally they play riot grrrl without the grrr. Closer Separated by Motorway was the highlight of an OK set by a nice band that got stuck with a duff slot - it was all over by 8pm.

There was definitely more of a buzz for The Automatic, who'd already gone down well in recent times supporting Hard Fi. If comparing this to another recent NME tour, if The Long Blondes were The Futureheads (a bit weak and under-whelming live, although you know they're good on CD), these guys were The Kaiser Chiefs - fun, noisy and connected with "da yoof" and us oldies alike from the off, with plenty of energy to spare. The sound suddenly got really meaty and I could watch the keyboard player all night, screaming, spazzing around like a banshee and dancing like an E'd up Mick Jagger - he put on a real show. While singles Raoul and Monster did stand out, there was plenty to suggest the debut album will be a corker, chucking the best bits of fast, fun indie into a big, sweaty melting pot and loving every minute of it.

They were hard to follow, but it looked for a while like iForward, Russia! Might just pull it off. Drawing on everything from At the Drive In and The Darkness (sadly, for the singer, with looks to match) to Dexy's and even Morrissey, the singer's theatrical vocals and stage presence could only carry them for a few songs before they started sounding a bit samey. The female drummer sang for one track, which really stood out and showed what they might be capable of in future, but for now they're not much more than The Associates for the emo generation. Intense, loud and well into it, like them they'll probably be little more than a footnote in a time of musical change unless they start mixing it up a bit.

On paper, Boy Kill Boy are the best of this particular bunch for me, but after a blinding show at the Soul Tree earlier in the year they seemed a little lost on the big stage, while people's ears were still ringing from the iF,R! onslaught. Despite this their songs really stood out as the outstanding pop nougats of the night, and I'd still stand them up as the band most likely to, even if The Automatic stole this particular show, making BKB the Bloc Party of the night. Boy Kill Boy write killer tunes, killer hooks and killer choruses, and it'll take a balls up of pretty spectacular proportions by their record company to fail to elevate them into the "big gig" set on their own terms. You can have all the gimmicks you like, but there's no substitute for good musicians playing good songs with a smile.

Once more, NME provided four great bands doing cracking sets, all of who could go on to do great things - even the Junktion couldn't screw this one up (although the lighting rig is a nightmare - give it back to the stadium you stole it from and put something smaller and more appropriate back in). With guitar music being "cool" again though, it's nice to think that even though NME may build them up this time, they no longer have the clout to knock them down - and long may that continue.

Chris Marling

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