The Guillemots, Madame Jo-Jo's, London

Madame Jo-Jo's, London

This week's band-of-the-moment make an entrance that can be classified as either an exciting piece of theatre or a takeover of the venue by a bunch of clowns. Clanging a variety of children's instruments, the Birmingham quartet caper through the audience, leader Fyfe Dangerfield waving what might be a Hoover hose. Reaching the stage, Dangerfield plonks himself behind a keyboard, shakes his big, leonine head and shrieks. This dies to a quavering sob, the other instruments erratically clank into life, and they're off, fumbling through something that's neither free jazz nor rock. How I'd love to read the minds of the major-label people who have just paid big bucks for these misfits.

Forty wobbly minutes later, one thing is clear: live, the Guillemots' chief virtue is enthusiasm. It's certainly not the music - best described as rock with soulful vocals - which veers madly between the spellbinding (during the number when Dangerfield bravely sings un-miked and a cappella) and the shambolic. The apparently improvised songs bear scant resemblance to the fragile confections of their widely praised debut EP, I Saw Such Things in My Sleep.

But they carry it off, just, thanks to Dangerfield. The bearded, Brummie Robbie Williams of indie - in the sense that applause is like oxygen to him - he clowns, does comic accents and borrows a guitar from the support band. When he can be bothered, he sings beautifully, with a haunted lilt that cuts through the melee. Every time he begins to take it seriously, though, a switch flicks in his brain, and the clowning mechanism takes over, giving the impression of a clever but obnoxious 12-year-old.

Will this continue to work? Maybe. The Guillemots are emerging at a point when the search for new talent has turned toward acts whose quirks and imperfections previously would have been airbrushed out. It could be their lucky day.

· At Komedia, Brighton (01273 647100) on October 24. Then touring.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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