The Tears/The Magic Numbers/The Dead 60’s/Nine Black Alps : London Astoria

The Tears/The Magic Numbers/The Dead 60's/Nine Black Alps : London Astoria

It's a ride through time and space...

[a]NME[/a] is on a breakneck jet-ride through time and space, our time capsule cunningly disguised as the Astoria. First stop: 1992, where we find [a]Nine Black Alps[/a] gamely reanimating the corpse of college rock for a new generation as yet unacquainted with the thrills of flange, fringes and plaid. They do it so expertly that higher powers must surely be at work: can the Dinosaur Jr reunion really be a coincidence?

Back to 1981 and The Dead 60’s, taking the spirit of Strummerville into the wilds of ‘Sandinista!’ and emerging as a rather less pissed-off Specials. It’s not their best day, and they’re going to need to tighten up their more ‘angular’ tendencies.

Next we flash back to Woodstock 1968 for The Magic Numbers. Back then, strangers had sex with each other on buses, you could take acid in the name of science and people had things called ‘hearts’ rather than the engines that are standard issue for human borgs nowadays. The Numbers prance gleefully through this meadow in a harmonious reverie, singing songs so optimistic as ‘Hymn To Her’ and ‘Love Is Just A Game’ that we nearly find ourselves drifting away on a cloud.

So to our final destination: the day in 1994 when Bernard Butler walked out on Suede to pursue a career in under-achievement. It won’t surprise anybody to learn that The Tears aren’t the second coming but thankfully, neither are they ‘The Second Coming’. Essentially they’re late-period Suede with a better guitarist and at their best (like buxom pounder ‘Refugees’) they perfectly marry ‘Coming Up’’s pouting swagger with the heart-in-gob soulfulness of McAlmont & Butler. There’s work still to do, of course.

When there’s more Brett than Bernard (‘Ghost Of You’), it just sounds like daft Keane, but when fully supported by the weight of Bernard’s still-genius playing (the ambient ‘Apollo 13’) it’s as if not a day has passed. An imperfect landing, then, from a band who still have time to become brilliant. In the short term, a blast through ‘Animal Nitrate’ or ‘Stay Together’ would have made tonight truly magical. And if The Tears are scared they would upstage their new songs, well, they’re going to need more guts than that.

Dan Martin