Peppermint Patti presents (hooker)/Poppy and the Jezebels/Look Look (Dancing Boys)/The Smears: Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, 09/09/06.

Comparing vaguely punkish, female-fronted bands to Hole is usually a telltale sign of lazy journalism. You'll have to forgive me on this occasion, however, since The Smears' Emma O'Neill is possessed of a distinctly Courtney-esque holler, and the whole band make a racket that's beautifully reminiscent of Love and co. circa Live Through This. Despite the self-deprecating between-song banter, their playing is taut, aggressive and fiercely confident, and they leave the audience baying for more.

There are clues. The neon pink leggings. The sun visors. The manic grins. But nothing can really prepare us for the day-glo spackattack that is Look Look (Dancing Boys). Armed only with a guitar, a toy keyboard and their explosion-in-a-Pokemon-factory eighties retro chic, they bounce, hi-five and let fly a fusillade of expletives that would have Sid Vicious weeping tears of proud joy. Lo-fi Shampoo? The Research on a lethal cocktail of additives and South Park humour instead of the angst? I don't quite know how to describe them, but I do know that they're my new favourite band.

Poppy and the Jezebels (above) - a quartet of scowling young ladies with glitter round their eyes and, to all appearances, an average age of about 14 - look like they should be good. Unfortunately, they also look absolutely terrified, and it tells on their performance. Little-girl vocals add a nicely creepy edge to a cover of "Walk On The Wild Side," but overall, their static stage presence and polite indie-pop underwhelm, with only set-closer "Electro Bitch" displaying any real bite.

It's up to Peppermint Patti favourites (hooker) to round things off, and they do so with their usual consummate skill. Most of their songs are under two minutes long, fast, furious punk-pop gems that turn up, snarl and shimmer at you and then disappear, leaving you reeling, but sure that you've just witnessed something extremely special. Rather like tonight, in fact.

Jessica Trash

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