Clap Your Hands Say Yeah/Dr Dog/Battle: KOKO London, Friday, February 10

Geek chic rules on the opening night of the NME Awards 2006

With louche, stellar-scenesters like The Strokes in town, tonight’s line-up seems like a seriously anti-cool antidote. The openers, south London geek-troupe Battle, all wear badly matched T-shirts and ill-fitting jeans, while singer Jason Bavanandan points and screams from behind a miniature keyboard during frantic new single ‘Tendency’. Then Staccato stop-startiness fuses with crunchy guitar on ‘Demons’ and it all goes brilliantly prog. Philadelphians Dr Dog buzz with ballsy enthusiasm and while they provide some well-received all-American romance, it’s clear that their Badly Drawn Boy-style tea-cosy hats and wildman beards won’t be attracting any London fashion week passers-by.

Tonight is Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s big chance to really make good and build on the chin-stroking that greeted their much-hyped sold out tour last year. Mixing stiff British indie with their own frenetic Brooklyn focus produces freakishly effective results, not least a flurry of balloons descending on the crowd, while balding singer Alec Ounsworth continues his ascent to unlikely secret rock pin-up. ‘The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth’ has sore feet stomping long after it is over, while new single ‘In This Home On Ice’ exudes wistful nostalgia. Friends Dr Dog are invited back on for a version of Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’, ending the night with blistering skill and distinct panache. In tonight’s balloon-filled world, uncool seriously rules.

Ben Perreau