Republica : London Camden Dingwalls

Once, very briefly, sussed pop contenders...

"Alright, yooo fuckers," hollers Saffron with all the brazen attitude she can muster. "Let's have it." Then, as 'Drop Dead Gorgeous' begins, she's scissor-kicking angrily, conducting the pogoing in the front row with bellicose gestures and goading the crowd to drop their cool and get feisty. Heck! There's gonna be a riot! You see, Dingwalls has recently installed a nice little food counter, and they're fast running out of their most popular dish.

Republica, then: for all the sneer and swagger they attempt to crowbar into their sound and image, they still can't match the spontaneous disorder of a fight for the last remaining chips in pitta bread. But then they're not well acquainted with spontaneity. Tonight's set quickly reveals how stultifyingly professional they've become in their pursuit of a demeanour, which they hope, will mean the success of 'Ready To Go' in the US can be repeated.

The pithy punk-rave components which once, very briefly, made them sussed pop contenders, have duly fought a losing battle against airbrushed power riffing and over-inflated choruses. As they pummel through tracks like 'From Rush Hour With Love' and 'Kung Fu Movies', from their new 'Speed Ballads' album, it's apparent Republica's music is now carved out for consumption in large American amphitheatres, alongside fast food, lite beer and strict no-smoking rules. Chips in pitta bread aside, you can't quite replicate such an 'ambience' in a small London sweatbox.

Instead, close-up, they're much like the band always found performing in a club scene in rubbish '80s movies: an adrenaline-upping hit when witnessed for 30 seconds, but risibly hollow when endured for any longer. And again we witness their new tracks leading them even further astray, as they attempt to heap up tales of urban ennui, rather than of pesky boyfriends and teenagers embarking on big nights, as was previously their trademark.

So while 'Get Off' from their debut long-player at least packs humour in its romper-stomper flippancy, crimes against lyricism - "Now you've sold your soul/And I'm hanging out with Mortal Kombat 2" - grind you right down on the facile 'Pub Pusher'. More hopeful at first is the track which begins with a muscular, Sex Pistols-sourced riff, only for us to learn it's called 'Millennium' and yes, that it really is about New Year's Eve next year. Interestingly and indeed incredibly, Republica don't seem embarrassed by this.

But like we said, they're professionals and Saffron keeps on kicking and punching and yelping and pretending it all matters in some way or other. She 'used' to be an actress, you know.

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