The Bravery: ULU, London, Tuesday April 24

What’s this, they’re back and actually pretty damn good?

Until tonight, The Bravery were supposed to be a joke – a band whose appetite for misbehaviour saw them burn out too fast and too soon, with only a handful of decent singles to show for it.

But, as they open with ‘Fearless’, we suddenly remember why we fell for them in the first place. From the off, it’s clear that time away has dimmed none of The Bravery’s desire to become bacchanalian rock pigs – guitarist Michael Zakarin pouts atop a monitor for every guitar solo, while frontman Sam Endicott flails around with splayed-leg abandon during ‘Public Service Announcement’. Indeed, everything from the eponymous debut album sounds like faithful standards.

But all this we knew already. Tonight is about second album, ‘The Sun And The Moon’. From the handful of songs they preview here, it’s clear that they’ve been messing around with the formula, and to triumphant effect. New single ‘Time Won’t Let Me Go’ bristles with radio-shagging hooks, while ‘Bad Sun’ has a dreamily stoned vibe. ‘Angelina’ is driven by a brain-nagging Motown beat, while ‘Every Word Is A Knife In My Ear’ – described by Sam as “a good, old-fashioned, fuck-the-government punk rock song” – is a paradoxically catchy, bilious rant against Bush’s America.

By the time ‘No Brakes’ has sounded its last note, it’s clear that The Bravery are back, and this time there’s more at stake than tequila and the next willing female. Tonight is a small victory – not only do people still remember The Bravery, but it’s as mental as the heady days of 2005. No longer defined by a dodgy history of ska, or who they’re slagging off this week, the New Yorkers have returned with the tunes to justify the attitude they always had in spades. The world would appear to have written them off too early. It was an honest mistake.

Barry Nicolson