New band of the day – No 907: Fixers

The dexterous songcraft of these Oxford lads gets lost in live translation. So don't read them the riot act

Hometown: Oxford.

The lineup: Jack Goldstein, Roo Bhasin, Michael Thompson, Christopher Dawson, Jason Warner.

The background: You often hear it said of a band that, to fully appreciate them, "You've got to see them live". Well, tell that to all the great studio units from Steely Dan to Scritti Politti. And tell it to today's laptop lost boys (Washed Out, How to Dress Well) who doubtlessly make more sense in their bedrooms than they do treading the boards because they're less about showmanship than the artful use of technology to manipulate sound, which is a whole different kind of performance.

We say this because last night we went to see Fixers play in London and let's just say that their recorded work to date was probably not best served by its live presentation. Put it this way: the five-piece, about whom there is a considerable buzz, weren't the only ones yesterday to give students a bad name. Or to put it another way: one member of the audience, after watching frontman Jack Goldstein prance and mince his way through Fixers' set, after witnessing those hand gestures and that mannered tilt of the head, was moved to declare that she wanted to "punch his face in". Note that it was a female. We dread to think what the men in the crowd had in mind.

Meanwhile, Fixers' live sound was a bit of a blare and the five boys in the band looked a bit of an uncharismatic mess of jeans, T-shirts and scarves (yes, scarves). And yet Fixers, via the trail of recorded fragments that have been scattered our way – on MP3, SoundCloud and MySpace – are a wondrous thing. They are from Oxford (as are Trophy Wife – cue furious talk of a new Thames Valley scene) but have more in common with the Brooklyn brigade. Think MGMT and Animal Collective, with a similarly fresh take on psychedelia. And think the Beach Boys (they're massive BBs fans) when Brian Wilson was in bed (or was it his sandbox, or the tent in the living room?) with Van Dyke Parks – the a cappella intro to Another Lost Apache is a superb homage to the Smile/Smiley Smile-era. Amsterdam (an oblique reference to BBs' 1973 album Holland?) features slowed-down Spectoresque drums, spectral guitar and all manner of psych spaciness while Iron Deer Dream also places Beach Boys in a hard-rock context.

A couple of their tracks, namely the enticingly titled Crystals and Majesties Ranch, are apparently rich in handclaps, sleigh bells and various lustrous sonics (our SoundCloud versions stopped playing halfway through). Basing much of our assessment of them, then, on Another Lost Apache, the devil really is in the detail, the Good Vibrations guitar, layered harmonies and barber shop doo-doos, even the pouring-water FX. All of this inevitably got lost in the live translation, where Goldstein's impressively ethereal soprano became just another of those Chris Martin-ish sensitive-balladeer voices. We keep harping on about this because these days bands' reputations and followings are made on what they can achieve onstage. So ignore the in-concert bludgeon (and lack of a coherent "sexy" image) and focus on the dexterous songcraft because Fixers are potentially huge homegrown purveyors of the new US psych-pop.

The buzz: "A gorgeous summer salad of west coast psychedelia and spaced-out, lysergic sunshine pop."

The truth: No supermodels for this bunch, but Brian Wilson would be proud (as would Brian Eno).

Most likely to: Leave them all behind.

Least likely to: Stage a riot.

What to buy: There will be a single early next year.

File next to: Animal Collective, MGMT, Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks, Wondermints.


Thursday's new band: Chad Valley.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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