The Boyfriends, Luxembourg, Swimmer One, Sweethearts,the

Edna Walthorpe 18/02/2006

It's 20 years since C86 - the scene named after a compilation cassette that came free with the NME - when indie music meant independent and do it yourself was more important than getting into the charts, let alone the tabloids.

There's more than a little of that spirit in the air tonight. Indeed opening band The Sweethearts could easily have featured on the original C86 tape. They're a trio fronted by a boy and girl on alternating bass and ukulele who are both dressed as schoolchildren. Many others have tried this look, from Britney to Piney Geer, and all have looked like a paedo's dream come true. The Sweethearts, however, just look ... well, sweet, with music to match.

Edinburgh's Swimmer One turn things up a notch, beginning with new single,
"Largs Hum" which sounds like Tom from the Inspiral Carpets fronting Depeche
Mode when they were good. It's backed by a relentless sample of an Ivor
Cutler type reciting the grimmest coastal towns of Scotland - terrifying and fascinating. Their cover of "Cloudbusting" doesn't stray too far from the original, but still puts the Futureheads' recent effort to shame. By this time the crowd are already buzzing. Then something very strange happens. "Morrissey's here!" shouts one person, then another, then another. He leaves shortly afterwards and debate is currently raging on message boards across the web as to whether he actually made it back and which bands he did or didn't see.

It matters not one jot, the atmosphere is now electric and the night will go down in musical history. Luxembourg make a grand entrance. "Tonight we are versus Great Britain!" announces singer David Shah, although one suspects he may have someone closer to home in his sights, especially when he utters, "I'm sure you've all come to see The Boyfriends, not us," to which the entire room yells: "NO!" The 'bourg are at the best with their backs against the wall, as it were, and never before have they seemed in such a fighting mood, their armoury an indestructible array of swooping pop hits and crashing ballads. For all the Smiths comparisons thrown the Boyfriends' way, Luxembourg come far closer to the operatic vocal style and witty wordplay of tonight's special guest visitor. The lyrical punnery is at its most biting on double entendres like "We Only Stay Together For The Kids" and new instant classic "Sick of DIY" - songs which can only make you join the growing clamour
of voices asking, "Why the fuck aren't this band signed?"

It's a tough act to follow, but the Boyfriends make a decent fist of it, their confidence bolstered by a recent flurry of press activity which has seen their debut single described as both the worst and the best record of the year so far. In truth it's neither of these things but it's hard not to be impressed by the song's live incarnation, a relentless grinding riff that's more metal than petals. Frontman Martin Wallace has ditched his virginal white jacket for an obscene t-shirt and seems to almost dare the audience to have a go. The songs are honest and direct - "I Love You", "No Tomorrow", "There Is Always Hope" - there's no secret agenda, just the love of a great pop song wrapped in a big dirty riff.

If this was a boxing match, both teams would be bloodied and battered. But
the truth is that the real winners tonight are the audience who've just witnessed the start of something very special in which Morrissey's appearance is a mere footnote.

The revolution has started, baby. Resistance is futile.