Aberfeldy, Liquid Room, Edinburgh <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fivestar -->

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Much like their Glaswegian counterparts, Belle and Sebastian, Aberfeldy are maligned for not sounding tough enough. As with the Smiths before them, both bands attract disdain for being fronted by a male lead singer who offers love songs in a camp falsetto.

But to dismiss Aberfeldy as lily-livered and twee disregardsthe diversity of their sound, which borrows heavily from Seventies songwriting, specifically the West Coast US style most recently appropriated by the Magic Numbers.

Indeed, fans of the Edinburgh quintet (who are named, confusingly enough, after a scenic but nondescript town in Perthshire, where the band's lead singer and songwriter, Riley Briggs, spent childhood holidays) must have felt aggrieved as they watched the Magic Numbers gather critical goodwill and commercial success last year. Aberfeldy's own debut album, Young Forever, strip-mined the same vein of classic MOR but languished in relative obscurity upon its release on Rough Trade in 2004, despite being a more diverse and expressive record. The hope must be that the forthcoming second album will be received more favourably by a public attuned to their sound.

Received more favourably, certainly, than tonight's support acts - Preston Panz and the Seton Sands, and Isa and the Filthy Tongues - were by a patient crowd. While Preston Panz are a knockabout surf-rock band with a joke name based on local locations, Isa and the Filthy Tongues feature ex-members of Edinburgh faves Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. They recallpost-punk heroes such as The Cure to fine effect, but, on this showing, lack a lyrical and vocal edge that would mark them out as real contenders.

The headliners got a warmer reception. Dressed in an audacious safari coat and flanked by his equally retro-styled backing singers and musicians, lead singer Riley Briggs appears to be wearing an outfit modelled on the cast of Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous.

Aberfeldy's image is different and appealing, and their music is compelling for similar reasons. Of course, it's not entirely free from cuteness: the cartoonish keyboard line of "Summer's Gone", for example, or the soppy lyrics of "Vegetarian Restaurant", and the moment when Ruth Barrie and Sarah McFadyen deliver the backing vocals to "Heliopolis By Night" while holding their noses.

Yet Briggs's ability to write driving and memorable pop songs should not be underestimated, with earlier songs "Something I Must Tell You" and "A Friend Like You" remaining fresh alongside new songs such as "You Dress As If It's the 1970s". Their eccentric fascination with peculiar Scots references continues with Tom Weir, the televisual outdoorsman of decades past. The fact that they can write an infectious tribute to such an odd subject sums up why this band deserve attention.