Leeds Duchess Of York

When they come back for an encore, though, with [B]Danny[/B] goofing around in a [B]Reni[/B] hat, and play some pissawful drumming 'jam' like a Pringles advert from comedy hell, you realise these ar

It seems like, ooh, nearly four years since Britpop hit its high-water mark, in that mad indian summer when two of ‘our’ bands competed for the number one spot. But it might as well be a decade. [a]Oasis[/a] are treading tried and trusted waters, [a]Blur[/a] have retreated into anti-pop denial, [a]Pulp[/a] are in rehab, and the Manics and Radiohead are making accomplished, ‘mature’ album-oriented rock. So who of this parish can reclaim the charts from the forces of evil?

The problem is, in reaction to Britpop’s simple traditionalist thrills, there’s a new attitude among Britain’s best guitar bands, vaguely anti-commercial, proudly idiosyncratic and invariably difficult. Much as they all deserve to have their week at number one, the likes of Super Furries, Shack, The Beta Band, Mogwai and Belle & Sebastian haven’t the charisma or the desire to beat the pop puppets at their own game. For all their maverick brilliance, Death In Vegas and Godspeed You Black Emperor! are hardly likely to set CD:UK alight. Gay Dad, meanwhile, the great white hopes, seem already to have become victims of their own hype.

It has been whispered in the corridors of power that Ooberman could succeed where others have failed. they’ve got the tunes, the same management as [a]Blur[/a], and a third shiny happy pop single about to be released. You suspect they’d be more than happy to jump through hoops on kids’ TV. They sound somewhere between The Lightning Seeds and Hanson with a degree. Hmmm.

Can they possibly save us from the scourge of Steps?

Not with songs like their opener tonight, the cheekily entitled ‘Sugar Bum’. This excruciating perversion of wimp pop sensibilities sounds like Toby Anstis backed by The Flying Pickets, singing a song from a comedy musical scripted by Richard Stilgoe. Featuring humour that’s not so much lame as quadriplegic, it’s enough to send you scurrying to the goth disco down the road.

But then Ooberman immediately demonstrate their maddeningly erratic character by playing ‘Blossoms Falling’, a gloriously innocent, yearning pop beauty and exhibit A for the defence.

Sure, they are a band of Sleeperblokes, but that never stopped Sleeper. At least lead singer Danny Popplewell leaps around like a Damon lookalike in a lager advert, and at least keyboardist Sophia Churney‘s backing vocals give the sound a classic pop sheen. Danny has all the charisma of a mate of a mate in Emmerdale, but a certain common touch in his banter with the crowd. You just wish he didn’t sing like a Blue Peter presenter.

You’d admire their professed hatred of irony if you could only believe them. The humour of ‘My Baby’s Too Tall And Thin’ and ‘Sugar Bum’ is irritatingly nudge-winkish, and Danny‘s cheeky, chirpy self-deprecating approach tries a little too hard to convince.

Most damning is their insistence, in songs like ‘Bees’, on lurching from one style to another with prog-pop quirkiness that only the Colin Huntmost of music lovers could stomach. Electro-toms! Ersatz piano! Swing interludes! Swamp blues! Laugh? I nearly killed them.

Then they go and play the quite splendid, swooningly romantic ‘Shorley Wall’, suddenly resemble Prefab Sprout in all their fey glory, and you wish the real Ooberman would stand up, or more to the point, decide who the real Ooberman is.

When they come back for an encore, though, with Danny goofing around in a Reni hat, and play some pissawful drumming ‘jam’ like a Pringles advert from comedy hell, you realise these are two sides of the same simperingly nice ‘please like us’ personality, and you give up and go home.

In summary, then: My Life Story – your country needs you.