Cherry Ghost | Pop review

Fibbers, York

Bolton's Cherry Ghost are a product of the same north-west drizzle as Elbow, Doves and I Am Kloot. Like their fellow northern souls, they play hard-bitten, anthemic northern melancholy. Cherry Ghost's twangy epics, however, have a slight spaghetti-western, Americana feel; stony-faced in dark clothing, in a past life the quintet almost certainly clutched guns, not guitars.

There are times, though, when one can't avoid a sense of deja vu. Where Elbow's Guy Garvey traditionally greets audiences with a gentle "Is everybody OK?", Cherry Ghost's Simon Aldred asks "Are you all well?", and his rich, dark croon is occasionally reminiscent of Richard Hawley's. His lyrics veer into I Am Kloot's territory of alcoholic, troubled souls – though his subject matter is brilliantly observed, from the person in Barberini Square whose face "could launch a bare-knuckle fight" to the protagonist of Kissing Strangers who stumbles from bar to one-night stand in search of oblivion and a killer chorus.

The band have some fabulous songs, mostly from their second album, this year's Beneath This Burning Shoreline. A Month of Mornings' "old rolling river" hookline is haunting; We Sleep On Stones matches Aldred's compelling words about vengeance with an infectious rhythm that shuffles like a boxer's feet.

Where 2007's Thirst for Romance went top 10, Beneath This Burning Shoreline only grazed the top 40. The band have re-emerged in an overcrowded genre. Although the brooding feel is occasionally broken by a trumpet or, during the glorious Black Fang, a sampled choir, tonight's set lacks enough to lift the gloom or set them apart from their peers. By the time they pour Bolton drizzle over an unlikely cover of CeCe Peniston's hit Finally, it has actually started raining.

• At O2 Academy, Sheffield (0844 477 2000), tomorrow. Then touring.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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