[a]Animals That Swim[/a] make music that is like observational comedy, but without the jokes.

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London Camden Monarch

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London Camden Monarch

During the ’90s, Hank Starrs and his vaguely alcoholic band passed through the New Wave Of New Wave and Britpop, completely oblivious to either movement. They just kept on doing their thing and tonight, despite new material, not much has changed.

Hank takes to the stage and asks the audience, “Who am I? What band am I in?” – which is a bit worrying – but he soon recalls that his vocation is literary rock, dreamt up during a coffee-house soiree between Shack and Buffalo Tom. Take the careful conceit of the affecting ‘Roy’, detailing the imagined meeting between Hank and Roy Orbison. When Hank takes on the role of The Big O and sings, “I missed my chance ‘cos I wasn’t as pretty as The King”, there’s a big dollop of self-consciousness and irony in the air. Elsewhere, ‘Faded Glamour’ is pure north London Beat poetry from a band who tonight look like a melancholic and lovelorn Madness. The biggest cheer of the night goes to the bloke who buys Hank a drink halfway through the set.

Animals That Swim make music that is like observational comedy, but without the jokes. They are as unfashionable and as uncool as ever, but seem happy to grow further out of step as they grow older, maintaining their precious loser status. Same time next year?