Cat the Dog, The Virgin Marys, Book Store

Stephen Bray 21/09/2006

Book Store, a four-piece local band, were the openers. The vocalist was an Alannah Currie/early 80s Madonna dress-alike in leopard skin leggings and baseball cap. Her sulky, pouty demeanour reminded me of a teenage street rat who'd just been arrested, but really couldn't care less.

The guitarist wore shades. I do hope that there was a medical reason for this.

As for the music, there's a distinct lack of both tunes and melody throughout, yet the noisiness that they're so clearly yearning for really isn't interesting or loud enough to grab one's attention. The only thing driving the songs or providing any sense of melody at all are the bass-lines that reminds of Mission of Burma or early Echo and the Bunnymen. The problem, however, is that the bass-lines contrast so badly with the half arsed sub-JAMC noise coming out of the guitar that the overall effect is one of distinct tunelessness.

Their second song sounds just like the first. Indeed, most of them do. And, as soon as any song ends, one immediately forgets how it went in the first place. There's a later track that sounds like an angry, amateurish cover of Bis' Kandy Pop but with even shoutier vocals than the original. She's a noisy singer is Ms. Ciccone - it's just a shame that you can't really catch any of the words. She doesn't really speak between songs either, except once when she asks her Mum to get her a Strongbow from the bar.

There were 18 people in attendance. Including the band, AND the sound guy. I wouldn't expect that to change until they actually get 'round to writing some songs at some point. There's a glimmer of potential here, but they really need a rethink about so many things before they're ever going to realise it. That said, I did quite like their arrogance, and as support bands go, I've seen far, far worse.

Like the Virgin Mary's (sic).

I don't know where this band come from, but I would hazard a guess at sometime around the mid 1970s. They seem to take their influences from the lesser tracks of the Led Zeppelin oeuvre, for the opening track is a real headache inducing blues dirge. However, there's no venom or passion to anything that they do. Even the guitar hero histrionics sound more tired and clichéd than usual.

The rest of their set (and, indeed, everything about them) reminds me more and more of a cross between Stillwater (the fictional band from Almost Famous) and Nickelback. Yes, it really is that bad. I want Book Store to come back.

But instead I get Cat The Dog.

Cat The Dog have come out of nowhere (well, Brighton) in a very short amount of time. They signed to Virgin after six gigs, and are about to support the Kooks on tour. Hyped up by a record company and famous friends, or genuinely talented and exciting? Let's take a look.

The first thing to note is that the whole set up seems rather odd. This band are playing one of the smallest venues that Manchester has to offer, yet they're using top of the range equipment that their roadies are currently busy setting up. It's very odd indeed watching roadies working with a band at this level. Someone somewhere has a lot of faith in this lot.

Given their pedigree, the band's appearance is much as you'd expect. The drummer could be in Towers of London, but the rest - fortunately - aren't quite as sartorially painful. Indeed, the singer manages to wear his threads rather well, being one of the few people in the world who can pull off wearing the hat that he's currently attired in. He resembles a pixie. It's a surprisingly good look. If Cat The Dog make it, his picture will be pinned to many a bedroom wall.

Given the nature of The Business these days, I imagine that if Cat The Dog fail to make it, heads will roll at the record company.

The start of the band's set is suitable noisy, and one takes note of the handful of things that make this band stand out. Firstly, there's a slight avoidance of the usual 4/4 beats that many bands at this early stage are too wary to step away from. A lot of the set is very reminiscent of the Libertines, but for some reason the image that really comes to mind is that of an even more Doherty-centric Libertines - there is little Barat element here. The bass lines are straight out of the Libertines too, but there's also a slightly 60s pop sound that permeates throughout. Having said that, a lot of the guitar work is shamefully overblown, and occasionally steps into 80s cock-rock territory. A shame, as some of the time the guitarist is capable of some good riffs and some quite exciting discordant noise in the very best Bernard Butler style.

The songs in general are short and sweet but overall a little too amateurish to warrant too much excitement. They need honing and they need time to come alive. Sadly, at the rate that Cat The Dog are going, they'll be singing these songs in arenas before too long, and they'll still sound like they do tonight - in need of something extra, that little boost to make them 'great' rather than just 'ok.

There are two standout tracks. There's a song called, I think, “Closet Romantic” that sounds like 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster. It's an exciting tune and features lots of attention grabbing guitar squealing. I like it. There's another tune introduced only as “A Love Song” that could have been lifted straight from the second half of the Libertines' 2nd LP. It's an odd little number, but very catchy and very indicative of something slightly more original about Cat The Dog's sound than has previously been offered.

The gig gets better as it goes on, but it's still very short - indeed, they seem to have played for less time than either support band - although if it had been any longer, then I'd have no doubt have lost attention long ago. The end of the set is noisy, furious and a little destructive. Refreshingly, it doesn't look at all staged, and it's a good culmination to a reasonably exciting set.

They'd make an excellent support band - they're exciting, fresh-faced and play with real enthusiasm and vigour - but I don't think they should be headlining just yet, and I also think they may well regret being signed to a major so soon in their career.