Music: Variety show from kings of confidence

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IT'S NOT a "scene" as such, but at present there is a certain intermingling of bands which play meaningful pop with a dark underbelly and much use of acoustic instruments. Earlier in the year, Nottingham's Sunhouse went on tour with Gomez. They're currently supported by Anglo- Kiwi band Paradise Motel and later in the month they go out with Mojave 3 on the Bernard Butler tour, before heading for France for some dates with US songwriting supremo Elliott Smith.

Most of these artists have grown through word of mouth rather than hyped- up articles in the music press, but in vocalist and songwriter Gavin Clarke, Sunhouse have an endearing leader well worth all the coverage he receives. When they were signed last year on the strength of having done some songs for a low-budget film, Clarke had never played live before. At the Fleece & Firkin, he is still detectably nervous on stage. Without an instrument to hide behind, he still looks uncomfortable during instrumental breaks, either kneeling down out of the way or staring at guitarist Paul Bacon picking away.

Musically, the band - who tour as a six-piece - have assembled a confident set which journeys through a variety of styles. The opener, "Monkey Dead", was a meandering rocker; a new song, "Acid Casualties", saw Clarke rasping in a punkish Zeppelin style; "Loud Crowd" introduced some light psychedelia. Slightly out of breath, Clarke announced that it "was time to slow things down" as they eased into the gorgeous "Hurricane", perhaps the standout track on their Crazy on the Weekend debut album.

From there they segued into a great version of "Hard Sun", at the end of which Clarke just stood centre stage beaming a big smile as if to say, "Hey I just did that and it worked".

Confidence in hand, he started introducing the songs. "Fallen Flower", with its haunting intrusions of harmonica, is about a woman he knew while working in a hostel who turned to prostitution to aid a habit, while the chilling "Good Day To Die" was about his father's death. They upped the sonic stakes at the end with a full-blooded version of "Animal", with its distinct Sex Pistols edge.

Sunhouse breathe variety into a performance, and while they might not be spearheading a scene, they are on a nice organic roll.

Tim Perry