The Bluetones, Cockpit, Leeds

Cockpit, Leeds

While Blur and Oasis can flit from mansion to stadium, fate has been less generous to Britpop's other leading lights. While many have abandoned pop for curious vocations as least-selling novelists or demo tape reviewers, Hounslow's Bluetones are determined not to give up the ghost, even if that means a 50 date tour of venues including the likes of the Cheese and Grain in Frome. "We were tired playing venues where we were 12 feet away from the audience," insists frontman Mark Morris, gamely.

It is a long fall from the days when queues for in-store signings stretched across city centres, but at least the band sound as hungry as they were when they visited these venues on the way up. Many of the audience were here first time around, but the Bluetones shun nostalgia in favour of mostly new songs from next month's album release, Luxembourg - a back-to-basics effort with echoes of Elvis Costello and the Buzzcocks. The contrast between songs reflects their passage through the industry mill: the old ones are innocent and full of lust for glory, the new ones wry and reflective, peopled with scenesters and chancers and light-hearted (and otherwise) takes on dark themes.

You're No Fun, an S&M exposé, is certainly the first pop song to rhyme "sensation" with "asphyxiation"; the electro-tinged Never Going Nowhere is an affecting slice of pure melancholy. Perhaps this is what happens when you grow older and contemplate appearing at the Cheese and Grain in Frome. Dressed in a sultry leather jacket, Morris introduces Code Blue, about "idiots who join the army", with a qualifying gesture towards the "brave boys out there". This is both endearing and awkward: Morris could not upset anybody if he tried, although the overwhelmingly pleasant feel of the new songs suggest the Bluetones may just be too nice to properly expand their oeuvre.

As it is, in these days of Christina Aguilera and Slipknot, a bigger worry must be just how the band can win newer fans, short of donning masks to turn nu metal, pulling off a lucrative tie-in with Westlife or kidnapping people in the street. However, they certainly delight the old fans. As their early hit Bluetonic is hauled out to rapturous cheers, the Cheese and Grain should be making plans for a very busy night.

· At Liverpool University (0151-256 5555) tomorrow, then touring.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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