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[a]Wheat[/a] bring us nothing more startling than fine songwriting and an obvious love of their craft...

Sometimes the tiny things mean the most. Sometimes the spaces between words say more than the words themselves. Wheat are a quiet bunch, seemingly loath to imprint their personalities upon their performance. There are no flourishes, no jokes, no superfluous gestures. They look like farmers. Yet somehow the band's restraint makes their music all the more vivid.

Unfeasibly nondescript singer Scott Levesque negotiates the microphone with workmanlike steadiness, offering only the occasional mumbled "thank you", and once - in a sudden burst of loquaciousness - "Is everybody having a good time?" A "good time", however, isn't exactly what one has at a Wheat gig.

Although the set is more pop-inflected than one might have expected - considering the downbeat melodicism of their 'Medeiros' and 'Hope And Adams' LPs - Wheat aren't exactly a party band. Opener 'Off The Pedestal' suggests the unlikely pairing of Joy Division and Sparklehorse, all rhythmic melancholy and gently droning despair, while 'Raised Ranch Revolution' is a half-whispered, creepingly rattling lament.

Surprisingly, they dispense with naggingly insistent single 'Don't I Hold You' only five songs into the set, before tracing their steps back to the understated beauty of the first album. 'Death Car' and 'Karmic Episodes' are both sparse and sonorous, as Wheat prolong and replay certain phrases, driving home their ability to create gasping intensity out of only the simplest melodies.

There isn't anything extraordinary about any of this, of course. There is no ambition to break new ground, no flouting of convention. Wheat bring us nothing more startling than fine songwriting and an obvious love of their craft. Which, in itself, is enough. Because even though songs like 'San Diego' may be infused with an AOR mildness, the darkness of their sentiment sets them firmly in a league of their own. Loving them like they want to be loved couldn't be easier.

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