Bromide Dublin Castle, London

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The Independent Culture
Apocryphally, bromide tea was given to army privates to slash their sex drives. Given that Simon Berridge's idea of bedroom fun is to beaver away alone in his bedroom, recording his efforts on shaky second- hand four-track recording machines rather than writing bump 'n' grind soul classics, it's tempting to think it's going to be a boring ride.

Bedroom composers make a strange breed of music called auteurpop, or lo-fi, which at its worst is made by people who live on a diet of fizzy drinks and chocolate, and are eventually described on the main item of the Nine o'Clock News by neighbours as being "a loner".

The best of the bunch, however - White Town and Babybird - make Number One singles. The former wrapped an insidiously memorable tune in Eighties technology, and the latter had a chorus so catchy and dumb it was a blatant insult to the wry absurdism of the verses.

Simon Berridge is the latest in this line of low-budget luminaries. His recent debut album, Iscariot Heart, was the tentative step of a folkie adding dollops of red-raw guitar to his singer/ songwriter brew.

Auteurpop seldom translates well to live performance because practising with a tennis racket is never a substitute for getting out more. Babybird's Steven Jones by-passed this with his background in performance art while Bromide do it by having the poise of a band who have been together since childhood.

Berridge and his power trio, John Morrison on bass and Ed Lush on drums, grab the early Nineties grunge blueprint of quiet/ loud/ quiet/ loud and expand it beyond the self-indulgent miserablism of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, making it fresh again. While on record there are times when you are forced into chin-stroking admiration of such trivial things as "craft" and "proficiency", the infectious power of the BromideRockMachine live stomps over such superfluous considerations.

Berridge's on-stage demeanour is clumsy; a cross between early Elvis Costello and Morrissey, with a face and haircut from a Seventies copy of Match or Shoot!

There's a tense coiled energy in Berridge's performance which excites a constant fear that his elbows and knees, attached to arms and legs which are clearly too long, will suddenly lash out and upend the speakers or have someone's eye out. It's only when he starts to play the guitar that his motions become natural and unself-conscious. His guitar-playing veers from blasts of grunge-metal to a delicate whisper. He effortlessly drops in brief solos when the songs demand it.

The fact that he includes only one song from Iscariot Heart, a bent-out- of-shape version of "Halo", indicates that squeezed into that gawky frame is a mixture of restless ambition and prolific talent n

Anthony Thornton