Tompaulin/Kicker/The Gospel Oak: London Aldgate East Arts Cafe

The second day of the Winter Sprinter gives us mod shapes and fragrant six-string chiming...

The Gospel Oak are led by David Christian from Comet Gain, but fortunately they are a lot tidier than the Gain and – gasp! – manage to play in tune. Sadly, Christian didn’t get singing lessons for Christmas so, despite all of the appeal that the pedal steel guitar and intoxicating staccato mod slicing brings to the party, it’s a discordant, vaguely ugly affair.

London’s Kicker have taken a broom to their hitherto uninspired soul pop crossover and swept away the bits that didn’t quite fit. They pulsate with the sound of old soul gold and a vibrant pop veneer that’s embellished by neat arrangements. It’s such an accomplished blend that you have to salute them for appropriating The Jam’s ‘Start’ and not once making you think of The Beatles’ ‘Taxman’. And when they cheekily rip off the riff from Brenton Wood’s soul nugget ‘Gimme Little Sign’ you can forgive them, right? Right.

Last year’s shouldabeens, Tompaulin, enter 2001 with everything to prove. Prove it they do with songs of exquisite beauty mixed with a hard-edged, caustic roughness. Singer-songwriter Jamie Holman snipes at his hometown Blackburn with the cynicism of an outsider who has to sail around the world just to prove to his peers that the world isn’t flat. Guitars chime and jangle with an insistent guttural undertone that chews up the small town world, spits it out and looks for something more worthwhile. Which is a darkly romantic life spent with a mass that don’t ever quite get that there are options other than ready-made culture, which is music that is equal parts beguiling and entertaining.

Ben Clancy