Thomas Truax, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club

Kev Eddy 06/10/2006

Ah, the British railway. Foundation of Empire, jewel in the crown of a proud nation. Pinnacle of 19th century engineering: ruined by 20th century privatisation. It is thanks to the cynical capitalist tendencies of First Great Western trains that I don't arrive until after the first three bands have played tonight. Which is absolutely gutting, as Los Campesinos! and Gindrinker are two of the brightest lights of the sparkle that is the Cardiff indie scene at present. Oh, for some good old values to rescue us…

Hello, Victorian English Gentlemen's Club. The plaudits surrounding this band certainly bode well, as does the atmosphere of anticipation in the sweltering top room of Clwb. They don't disappoint, either. Their staccato distortopop grabs you by the ears and makes you pay attention: at least to begin with, anyway. Unfortunately, after about 15 minutes, the VEG Club struggle to keep the momentum going: songs which you feel should take ahold of you and drag you round the dancefloor barely hang together, and there's a feeling of unfulfilled promise about them - perhaps it's the sensation that they're not quite comfortable out there on stage yet; a certain stiffness about the way they hold their guitars and the hesitant way vocalist Adam Taylor approaches the mike. Perhaps it's that - or perhaps this just isn't their night.

Either way, the VEG Club have one thing in spades: promise. Two years ago, they played in Chapter Arts Centre, just down the road - and were godawful. Tonight, they're in Ifor Bach and they're very good. Just not great. Yet.

The misfit magician Thomas Truax is already great, however. It's nigh-impossible to describe the experience of his homemade pop-punk-folk with added contraptions to someone who hasn't seen it. Rest assured, though, that it's something truly special: electric-powered drum machines made out of pram wheels and tiny beaters accompany horn-drum-microphones and self-repeating string bongos almost make the songs seem like an afterthought. Almost. Weird and wonderful Burton-esque fairytales frame stories of loneliness and paranoia, but it's the one new song which is truly surprising: a bile-filled rant against a New York dominated by Starbucks, it's as far away from songs like 'Prove it to my Daughter' and 'The Fish' as you could ever expect Mr Truax to go, and makes you wonder just how much longer he's willing to keep up this life of travelling from place to place with no-one but his mechanical companions.

Still, it wouldn't be a Truax show without some tentative balancing - two bar stools tonight - and a wander through the crowd for an unamplified 'Full Moon in Wowtown'. If only the lower bar of Clwb didn't carry quite so much chatter from the back of the room, the gig would be a triumph. As it is, the self-confessed steampunk struggles to be heard. That, though, doesn't stop him receiving rapturous and well-deserved applause at the end of the night. There really is no-one quite like him out there today: you must see him while you still can.