live review: Seahorses Kentish Town Forum, London

`They're far better than those second-raters who sully the charts like Oasis afterbirth'
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The Independent Culture
I know a man who, after one minute 33 seconds of listening to it, smashed his promo tape of The Seahorses' debut album with a hammer rather than let it finish. Needless to say he was one of those boys whose life had been turned around by Madchester, specifically the languorous, surly sound of The Stone Roses' first record. Holding the Roses ex-guitarist, John Squire, as a paragon of all things cool, he was, I take it, horrified that his idol had put together an upbeat band whose frontman, Chris Helme, was discovered busking outside Woolworth's.

The rather snobbish argument is that there is no place for buskers in rock 'n' roll. Admittedly, Keith Prodigy wouldn't seem quite as full-on if he kept talking about his time outside Tesco's. But Helme isn't Keith Prodigy, he's a very good little folk singer. And if there's anything cool kids are really snobby about it's folk singers, unless they're Jeff Buckley who's dead so it's OK.

Speaking as apparently one of only three people in Britain who missed the Stone Roses first time around, the Seahorses' Forum gig shattered no adolescent memories for me. I thought it was an impressively tight show by four highly capable musicians. They are no Oasis, but who is? The Seahorses are still a long way better than all those second-raters who sully the charts like Oasis afterbirth. Muso bassist Stuart Fletcher has, like drummer Andy Watts, the chutzpah to carry it all off, undaunted by the past of the guitarist. Helme at first seems more nervous, hiding behind his acoustic guitar or clenching his fists behind his back. He has nothing to worry about. One of their best songs, the lush yet strangely hard-core "Blinded by the Sun", is a Helme composition and he sings it beautifully.

"Love Is the Law" has the already rapturous audience practically delirious with glee. Another high point is "Love Me or Leave Me", which Squire wrote with Liam Gallagher. It is delicate and sweet, like John Lennon getting into a warm bath. Visually, Squire is the show. Off stage he has the demeanour of a brunette Alan Bennett. On stage, he seems possessed by the spirit of Kate Bush. If his guitar weren't holding him down he'd probably be performing interpretative modern dance. Truth to tell, Squire could play Ocean Colour Scene's B-sides and it would be compelling.

Emma Forrest

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