Guildford Civic Hall

Made for the first kiss, [B]The Bluetones[/B]. For the first steps out into adolescence, into rock music, and into the trials of love, who you gonna call? That's right, you buy the T-shirt and the

Made for the first kiss, The Bluetones. For the first steps out into adolescence, into rock music, and into the trials of love, who you gonna call? That’s right, you buy the T-shirt and then you call Embrace, you call Shed 7, and most of all you call The Bluetones – you call the boys next door. Their world, increasingly, is a very young one. GCSE-takers swarm the front of the stage. Near the back of the hall, two girls are plaiting each other’s hair.

How different it all was once. Maybe no-one was ever exactly threatened by The Bluetones, but a few years ago in their communal home, the group seemed to be working on, at very least, a massive charm offensive. Eloquent, heartfelt and ambitious, while Blur and Oasis fought attritional war in the trenches of Britpop Field, The Bluetones soared over no-man’s-land. Greatness would be theirs, we were assured. They would even become the Talking Heads.

And in a funny way, they have. Not Talking Heads the New York group, you understand, but [I]Talking Heads[/I] the Alan Bennett series of very British monologues. Dropped biscuits. Bad table manners. All present in their make-up before, but as the group tightly gyrate in their snug-fit bespoke tailoring, a series of moderately witty remarks projected behind them, The Bluetones seem to have repositioned themselves from being chasers of rock’n’roll’s elusive flame, to being highly successful [I]popular entertainers[/I]. Three-quarters-of-an-hour into the show, Mark Morriss even leans toward the crowd and asks, “What do you think of it so far?”

And true to the spirit of things, they reply, “Rubbish!”

Which things are very far from being at all. Their sense of humour may derive from 1937, but The Bluetones‘ music is growing away from their self-imposed classicism into a confident new complexity. The material from their dog’s Tex-Mex breakfast ‘Return To The Last Chance Saloon’ is kept to a minimum while that from new LP ‘Science & Nature’ revels in its own relative freakishness. Scott Morriss brings out a double bass, and they play ‘Mudslide’, which borrows a bit from Ghostface Killah’s ‘Daytona 500’. “White funk in a post-Level 42 era,” says Mark. “The stuff of a madman’s dreams…” He’s right: The Bluetones are stylistically telling you a very strange joke that begins, “My dog has no nose”, and ends with an unflattering reference to your mother.

Just like it does in those Alan Bennett stories, quite a lot of the weirdness going on in The Bluetones‘ everyday world goes unnoticed. At the end of the night, there’s the same carnage at the T-shirt stand, the same buoyant happiness of the under-21s, but what’s going on in this band…

The stuff of a madman’s dreams.