Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, The Freebutt, Brighton

Lean machine too cool for drama school
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The Independent Culture

"We've headlined here," says Joe Van Moyland before "Baby", the Jing Jang Jong's final song, surveying the pub venue whose name, in the specific context of Brighton, is even more amusing than his band's. "We can give up now."

It's knowing false modesty. In the past, this man's horizons may have stretched only as far as becoming a big fish in the small pool of his hometown indie circuit, but by now he must realise that he and his band are going a long way: most imminently, on the NME Awards package tour, for which tonight's show is a rough-and-ready warm-up. Well, rough at least. Not sure about the ready: the gig starts an hour late, as we patiently sip pear cider and watch the drum kit being built from scratch.

If Joe's face, below, looks familiar, there's a reason. You might have seen him playing drums for Brighton's girlpop goddesses The Pipettes, and earning his own little fan club. More likely, you've seen him as an actor in two of Channel 4's finest sitcoms, playing the clingy brother-in-law in the latest series of Peep Show, and one of the "idiots" in Nathan Barley. The days of supporting roles, however, are over, and he's reinvented himself as the leader of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, the band whose supremely silly name causes a not-unwelcome Dolly Parton earworm.

"This song is about sex, and not giving a shit where you get it from, because you're young and stupid," he says before "Teenagers", proceeding to prowl round with lupine hunger, making maximum use of his drama-school poise. For some, charisma is hard work. For others, it's effortless.

The Jing Jang Jong are a quintet of snake-hipped young men (except for Panda on bass, who is built for comfort) who possess an intangible romanticism, as evidenced by debut single "Lucio Starts Fires", which hoists them just clear of the post-Libertines morass. Their brilliance is contingent and fragile.

It takes me back to the days when allegiance to indie bands could be won or lost by the tiniest of details, such as the way that a Brian Jones-fixated guitarist insists on wearing dark glasses even when checking his electronic tuner, which takes "trying to be cool" so far into the realm of "uncool" that it actually comes back into "cool" again.

For one reason or another, there's no cause for Joe to give up the night job yet.