Cave In : London Camden Underworld

Look out, it's Gandalf on a skateboard!...

Look out, it’s Gandalf on a skateboard! And here are his lightly but significantly bearded helpmates Cave In, ready to do magickal bidding.There are four of them, they come from near Boston, Massachusetts, and they resemble a young hardcore band who’ve gone to seed a bit whilst living on a commune.

Which is as you’d expect, really. Because Cave In are the punk nightmare made flesh: a band with all the intensity and discipline of emo and metal, but who’ve been drawn inexorably towards all the spangled effects and complicated time changes of prog rock. These men are shameless virtuosos who think nothing of calling songs ‘Brain Candle’ and ‘Innuendo And Out The Other’. And who are not only the most preposterous American band to debut in Britain for some time, but also one of the most impressive.

A guilty pleasure, perhaps, but Cave In have the same kind of death-defying confidence in the face of absurdity that makes Muse so much more entertaining than the other whey-faced simpering boys of post-[a]Radiohead[/a] Britrock. Having formed in the mid-’90s when lead singer Stephen Brodsky was just 15, they’ve released several albums already, culminating in last year’s intermittently listenable ‘Jupiter’.

If that record errs on the side of po-faced prog, however, tonight Cave In transcend it by mercilessly attacking every one of their gilded and often unnecessary notes. And as a load of new songs – like ‘Lost In The Air’ and ‘Lift Off’ from their current EP – betray a pop nous at the heart of the crossfire hurricane.

If Billy Corgan was a decade or so younger, this is how the nascent Smashing Pumpkins would’ve sounded: a fearless mixture of psychedelic pretension and rudimentary hard rock. It’s the encore, and Cave In are conscientiously running

around with their guitars over their heads, in the midst of a version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Dazed And Confused’ that, like most everything they do, is earth-shaking and embarrassing in roughly equal measures. Brodsky’s going through some major histrionics now – howling into the void, you could say – whilst guitarist Adam McGrath earnestly slides a toy raygun up and down his strings. And the sage-like words of Adam Ant seem timelier than ever: ridicule, without a doubt, is (I)nothing(/I) to be scared of.

John Mulvey