Faking it

Urusei Yatsura | The Garage, London
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The Independent Culture

Urusei Yatsura begin in no uncertain terms: with the super-fast chords of a new song, "Faking It", accelerating forward until it's suddenly cut dead. With guitarist/ vocalists Graham Kemp and Fergus Lawrie and bassist Elaine Graham lined across the stage, guitars hip-slung, their resemblance to the rock classicism and certain cool of their favourite band The Velvet Underground is considerable.

Urusei Yatsura begin in no uncertain terms: with the super-fast chords of a new song, "Faking It", accelerating forward until it's suddenly cut dead. With guitarist/ vocalists Graham Kemp and Fergus Lawrie and bassist Elaine Graham lined across the stage, guitars hip-slung, their resemblance to the rock classicism and certain cool of their favourite band The Velvet Underground is considerable.

But when these Glasgow-based Scots open their mouths, all connection to that arrogant template vanishes. They say "please" and "thank you" to the fans they've built up since they met at university seven years ago, respond to individuals' queries as if we're all sitting together at the student bar. And tonight, these gentle souls are puzzled, even mildly hurt, as the music press's indifference to their just-released third album, Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura, becomes apparent. Only recently in the charts, they now hang by a thread over the bin marked "Just Another Indie Band".

If that description were true, it would be hard to explain this large, eager and young crowd (some clearly here straight from school) on a night of almost Biblical downpours. One listen to the new album, and flashes of mystery beyond an identikit indie band are certainly evident: the fascination with Japanese pop culture apparent in their manga-filched name spreading into songs of post-nuclear ennui and emptiness with a science-fiction ambience that's entirely Asian.

Those, though, aren't the tracks emphasised tonight. Instead, as the rocket-blast opening suggests, they're here to rock as best they can. "Superdeformer" may offer a near-parody of themselves and their equally vinyl-obsessed audience, its protagonist's "needle in his jaw" neatly conflating record players and heroin, but its powerful, eardrum-overloading sound and almost Bay City Rollers-like chorus are more instantly pleasurable. "Our Shining Path" even alludes to the chemical and millennial terrors of their Japanese cultural touchstone, but what registers tonight is its musically subtle method of delivery: guitars chiming like bells and drums ticking like time-bombs in its quiet passages, the whole band stuttering back for a moment, then crashing into a climax. The detail on other songs is equally careful - guitars operating like brass on "Plastic Ashtray", for instance - but the effect, in the end, is always the same: a slightly more experimental, somewhat less tuneful version of the rock'n'roll blast with which bands such as Ash have levelled indie crowds for several years now.

For all the strange specifics of their records, then, the music press charge of ordinariness almost sticks live. What makes it irrelevant is such playing's effect: the way the crowd surges and leaps to simple choruses, and the sense of almost schoolyard community such moments - along with the band's conversational bonding - allows. This is what the usually derisive term "indie nation" refers to. And tonight, its borders seem worth crossing.

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