The Sunshine Underground

Bill Cummings 04/09/2006

I was really looking forward to this gig, an album launch for the Sunshine Underground, one of the hottest names on GIITTV-ers lips over the last year or so. At their best, th Shrewsbury four piece create propulsive star gazing rhythms that hark back to the days of Primal Scream, The Verve and dash them with the jangling disco guitars of Gang of Four. But more than that they have individuality: ballsy vocals that display wide-screen passion, tunes that are crafted to peak and jerk, and melodies that continuously build as high as sky scrapers. They have been lumped in with the supposed Nu Rave scene (Klaxons et al) but really, their sound can't easily be shoehorned into that.

So I was interested to see how The Sunshine Underground would match up to their promise live. On the whole it was a disappointing evening. Cargo was clearly the wrong venue: It had the feel of a trendy urbanised wine bar, or some battered out modern art gallery, replete with banging dance music, over priced bottled beer, and comfortable sofas. It's not the ideal environment to watch. Whilst 95% of the audience seemed to be made of liggers, blaggers and industry types - sure I could fit that description too - but the static crowd led to on the whole, a tame reception. It's not really the band's fault but most of the people at Cargo didn't seem to know who the band were, let alone their music. Despite their best efforts to rouse them: the building pummelling instrumentals of title track “Raise the alarm”, the chopping guitars and frantic insatiable rhythms of “Put you in your place” and the superb climax of new single “Commercial breakdown”(which received two airings tonight) with its fist pumping melodies and anthemic chorus, like the Stone Roses turned up to 11, it's one of the highlights of the night and leaves other contenders trailing in their wake (Kasabian, Boy Kill Boy ect). I begin to feel sorry for the band after a while, the first few rows apart the rest of the crowd either stands with their arms folded, or strains to see through the tiny entrance at the side of the stage area. The set doesn't help, it begins to sag in the middle as the realisation dawns on me that a lot of the Sunshine Underground's material lacks variation or sheer catchiness to fill out a whole set, at the moment.

But they always give 100%; in fact you can see the sweat drip from front man Craig's brow as he announces “this next one (Commercial Breakdown, again) is being recorded for our video and for channel four”. Suddenly glow sticks are cracked out, the crowd begins to move, bodies convulse and kids film the whole thing on their mobile phones for prosperity. Everyone wants to be famous for five minutes these days eh? It's a shame that a band who's album “Raise the Alarm” might be on the cusp of something big could be given such a limp send off, I guess it's partly the venue, the crowd and partly the band themselves to blame, but at their best The Sunshine Underground show enough sparks of potential to suggest that they will be playing better shows than this very soon.