The Departure, Clor, The Kooks, Viva Voce

Clark Summers 06/10/2005

Boy-girl duo Viva Voce (aka Kevin and Anita Robinson) are tonight's unknown quantity. Hailing from Portland they play a mixture of blissed out My Bloody Valentine styled dream pop and the kind of scathing, distortion laced rock that was popular with kids wearing plaid fifteen years ago. Unfortunately that whole 1991 sound hasn't been in fashion since errr… 1991 so you'd be hard pushed to find anyone here who can remember when shoegazing and grunge ruled the earth and Melody Maker was the best music magazine around.

Brighton's Kooks by contrast are impossibly fresh faced and blessed with an endearing optimism. Already garnering quite a bit of airplay for upcoming single “Sofa Song” they seem to have been caught up in the race to find a “new” Libertines. Unfortunately their mod-ish indie pop is rather anaemic at best and though a lucrative career as a Razorlight tribute act beckons - fame, fortune and a sell out headline tour with a finale at Brixton Academy do not.

Clor can probably remember 1991 the first time round and consequently don't want to go back there. Fortunately for us they appear disinterested in any of the current prevailing trends in indie guitar music. That's because Barry Dobbin and co know that off-kilter pop music is so much more interesting and infinitely more danceable than a) a bunch of sub-standard Pete Doherty aping chancers and b) po-faced post-punkers with asymmetric fringes. In “Outlines” and “Love and Pain” they have two of the finest singles released this year - possibly even this decade. On stage they breath human life into a multitude of kinetic pop gems and although they have a tendency to play with time signatures veering at times into the prog rock hinterlands there's no denying that these Brixton mis-shapes deserve success on a grand scale.

The Departure are the nominal headliners tonight and four months on from their last visit to Loughborough they return meaner, a little leaner and a lot more arrogant. A cocksure David Jones prowls the stage like a young Brett Anderson while his band-mates throw a series of increasingly ridiculous, clichéd rock poses. Songs from their debut album “Dirty Words” sound harder edged than before. The slashing guitars of “All Mapped Out” send the crowd into rapture and the spine tingling early U2 guitars of “Only Human” sound genuinely chilling. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the new material aired tonight. Worryingly there appears to be no marked progression from “Dirty Words” and for all the band's stadium rock posturing these new songs sound leaden and lack the danceable hooks which made their debut such a gem. It may be that given a few more listens these songs will grow on the listener but initial impressions suggest the band should go back to the drawing board. They encore with the jittery “Talk Show” (which perplexingly never made it as a single) before bringing proceedings to a anti-climactic finish with the best of the new batch of songs played -“The City Blurs” - which coincidentally showcases a fuller sound, more rhythm guitar and less of the band's trademark spidery guitar lines. Tonight The Departure showed more than enough fighting spirit and ceaseless energy on stage, whether it's enough to see off their rivals for the crown of Brit gloom rock (most notably Editors) remains a question open to some debate.