Lightspeed Champion, The Joiners, Southampton
Glasvegas, UCCA, Canterbury

He's super, he's furry, but he's not much of an animal: Devonte Hynes doesn't do sex or booze – but he did reinvent rock'n'roll

The impassioned suitor approaches the frumpy secretary. He removes the pin from her hair bun, shakes her tresses free, removes the unflattering horn-rimmed spectacles, gazes into her eyes and gasps: "But Miss Attwell... you're beautiful!"

In so many ways, that is the story of Devonte Hynes. The man who essentially is Lightspeed Champion was once a member of Test Icicles, the metal-techno lunatics, and admits that he formed the band as a "joke" and that their records were "shit". True as that may be, Test Icicles were one of the most influential shit jokes in recent history, having spawned the nu-rave movement more or less single-handedly.

They split too soon to reap the rewards, and for the movement's big 12 months, Hynes watched the aftermath from the sidelines. You'd see him around London occasionally, wallflowering at parties, his head growing gradually, through beard growth and a big fur trapper's hat, till its silhouette was huge, like the Elephant Man.

Tonight, he still has the big furry hat, but he's bothered to have a shave, and when he takes off the milk-bottle glasses, it's striking how pretty he is. ("But Mr Hynes... you're beautiful!). This story is about a different kind of blossoming, though. Lightspeed Champion's debut album Falling Off Lavender Bridge, with its lo-fi orchestral melodies and bedroom-bound despondency laced with gentle humour, has made friends Test Icicles never could. The appeal of his Lightspeed persona is almost Morrisseyesque. (Hynes is a teetotaller with a phobia of sex, so the comparison bears fairly close scrutiny.)

"We're going to start off with a new song," he tells Southampton. "Hope you enjoy it. It's about prostitutes." This, aside from being somewhat redundant (aren't all Lightspeed Champion songs new?), is a nice illustration of Devonte's deadpan charm. And the lyric that follows – "the next guy who comes through my door might strangle me" – highlights the deceptive sharpness behind the slacker demeanour. See also "My drawings are starting to suck/My best friends are all listening to crunk" (which deals with the cultural expectations of what a young black man is supposed to be into).

His band may be anything up to a six-piece (it's difficult to tell whether the people loitering on stage, like the guy in a Ninja Turtles bobble hat who looks like Sid from Skins, are actually members or just mates), but Hynes, with his vulnerable, motherable presence, is a one-man show.

He's a subtly skilled raconteur, reminiscing about his amateur acting days performing a "shitty homosexual drama", then introduces the next song as being "about a shitty homosexual drama". Seamless. He makes a Heath Ledger joke, gets booed for it, then laughingly asks, "Too soon? Too soon." Textbook.

Between the lovely latest single "Tell Me What It's Worth" and the closing "Midnight Surprise", he muses, "Is it sacrilegious to turn Jeff Buckley off for Star Wars?" and then, by the simple catalyst of asking what everyone's favourite Star Wars film is, almost causes a mass brawl. It's always the quiet ones you have to watch.

Just when you thought the concept of "emotion" in alt-pop had been irreversibly annexed by American emo bands with pained vocalists, overlong song titles and a "merch" deal with Hot Topic, along comes something to blast that notion clean out of the water. It's called Glasvegas.

"They start with that song that sounds like an old song," say my notes. It's only later that I realise that all Glasvegas songs sound like old songs. This isn't a problem. It may be true that many of the new century's smartest bands have been retro-futurists, returning to a previous era's idea of what the future might sound like, and taking it on to that hypothetical parallel universe. Glasvegas go back to a previous era's idea of what the past ideally should have sounded like, a never-never pop world where the Crystals and the Stooges were two sides of the same dime.

From the off, there's something very mid-Eighties about Glasvegas. Moments before they appear, a smoke machine, backlit with one red spot pointing upward from the floor, fills the stage, and it occurs to me that I haven't seen this much dry ice at an indie gig since Nigel Lawson was chancellor.

There's no escaping it: Glasvegas are very Jesus and Mary Chain, even more so live than on record, the feedback coming to the fore. (Although, when they sculpt the feedback into a lead instrument, they have more in common with JAMC's successors, My Bloody Valentine.)

What sets Glasvegas apart from both bands is the emotional resonance of James Allan's uncomfortably candid lyrics, and the lump-in-throat passion with which he delivers them: "My good friend ecstasy doesn't work, it makes you worse/I'm feeling so guilty about the things I said to my mum when I was 10 years old/I'm feeling so guilty about any old shit/And how I think my missus is fucking every guy that she looks at ..."

These aren't kids (kedds, as they would pronounce it). Solid Scots with tall, slightly quiffy Smiths-fan flat-tops, they're grown-ups, if not exactly old as such: an unkind person might speculate that this explains the smoke and red gel. And they aren't fakers either: the fact that every song is sung in an uncompromised Glaswegian accent somehow makes their sincerity all the more convincing.

It must be admitted that they're dying like Thomas à Becket here. Allan attempts some banter about how nice Canterbury is, but he's drowned out by the chatter of freshers trying to cop off with each other. One girl, who is listening, uncharitably heckles, "Subtitles!"

But these are the baby steps of a soon-to-be-adored band. This, I imagine, is what the legendary early Dexys gigs must have been like. Pearls before swine, and what pearls they are.

Glasvegas's pop classicism (think Brill Building, think Greenwich-Barry-Spector) and their textures (guitars like a vat of clear honey, drums like a big tub of ice cream) are delicious, and there's a hymnal quality to their songs which more than justifies how worked up some people are getting about this band.

At the end, they stop fannying about, 'fess up, and actually play "Be My Baby". Influences on one sleeve. Hearts on the other.

For more information and tour dates go to and

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea