Best Coast, Academy 2, Manchester<br/>Cat's Eyes, Scala, London

A Los Angeles surf-pop trio take the best of sugary Sixties songs and put them through their own wall of sound
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Two hundred students and a dog. That's the audience faced by Best Coast on the opening night of their British tour. Not the mythical canine of "two men and a dog" proverb, but an actual black Labrador, a physical manifestation of Churchill's famous metaphor for depression. Maybe he's here to be cured, because if anyone ought to be able to lift the black dog from your shoulder it's Best Coast.

Midway through the fortnight-long Big Sickie of 2011 (Easter-Royal Wedding-May Day), when the entire UK acts like it's France in August, the summer haze of Best Coast's songs is more conducive to feeling the spirit of the season than a hamper full of Pimm's.

Something about Best Coast – the Los Angeles surf-pop trio formed by Bethany Cosentino and her former babysitter Bobb Bruno – sounds as if it's been plunged into honey, or perhaps amber, like that surrounding the gnat in Jurassic Park, perfectly preserving the dinosaur lifeblood of sugary Sixties pop.

BC flip back the calendar to a pre-1970 world, and draw upon the benign hippie-affiliated harmonies of the Mamas and the Papas and Lovin' Spoonful, the girl group bliss of the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes, and even jukebox rock'n'roll.

There's also a strong hint of the early Nineties and the more melodic end of grunge-pop (Belly, Teenage Fanclub, Juliana Hatfield, Bettie Serveert) in the lo-fi buzzsaw guitars. It's the sort of thing that's easy to do badly: see Wavves (with whom Best Coast have split an EP) and the ludicrously overhyped Drums – but Best Coast make it seem effortless.

What Cosentino does is to reduce teen-pop down to its very fundamentals, the simplest and most basic human urges and yearnings which have always been its driving force. Lines like "I just wanna tell you that I always miss you" and "I hate sleeping alone" are as essential and irreducible as pop gets.

Best Coast are a band for whom shamateurism is an article of faith, from the frequent false starts to Cosentino's deliberately wayward grip on the melody. It's the sort of self-conscious tweeness which appeals to a specific kind of indie kid, and the girls with one flower in their hair know every single word.

There's something hugely incongruous, then, about the stage invasion. It's prompted by "Boyfriend", their equal-greatest song along with the superbly Spector-esque "I Want To" and the single "When I'm with You", and you can tell that Best Coast aren't used to such behaviour by Bethany's health-and-safety reaction: "We love coming to cities like this, and we love it that people do that ... but maybe do that in a way that our instruments don't get unplugged!"

She seems an amiable sort, admitting to a childhood crush on Prince William, to mass retching noises, and conducting ad hoc J-Lo singalongs. Given that her band has only one album's worth of material, such padding is probably a necessity.

The gig shambles and fizzes to an end, as inevitably it would. No big showbiz finale for Best Coast, just "Help Me Rhonda" over the speakers. But the black lab's tail is wagging, and that's the main thing.

Best Coast aren't the only band after some wall-of-sound inspiration. In 2010, Faris Badwan of the Horrors played some Ronettes to the previously uninitiated Rachel Zeffira, a classically trained Canadian opera singer and musician, which led to the duo forming the side project Cat's Eyes.

With its haunting boy-girl vocals, crackly old microphone effects and soothingly simple melodies – imagine Spiritualized minus the tedious fixation with drugs and you're almost there – the duo's self-titled debut album was rapturously received. Incredibly, the band even managed to blag a gig at the Vatican through Zeffira's classical connections.

In a brief but beautiful set, the sombre, unsettling Cat's Eyes sound prettified by organ, oboe, glockenspiel and French horn, it's Zeffira who steals the show from her more famous sidekick on the heartbreakingly self-aware "I'm Not Stupid" ("I'm not the prettiest girl ... I can see she's better than me"), on which she's joined by an eight-piece heavenly choir whose effect is that of one of those ghost-leaving-the-body moments at the end of a classic Sixties death song.

If Badwan gets the bug for this sort of thing, a return to the day job might not look so appealing, and the rest of the Horrors might be left like a mournful Greek chorus: he was the leader of the pack, and now he's gone...

Next Week:

Simon Price catches Peckham pop heroine Katy B, and cowers before reunited Canadian noiseniks Death from Above 1979

Rock Choice

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