Motor Ace, Barfly, London

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The Independent Culture

For the successful Aussie rock band, trying their luck in the old motherland is a rite of passage. But regardless of the cultural similarities - language, heritage, the need to light up a barbie at the merest glimmer of sunshine - success isn't guaranteed. For every Men at Work, Rolf Harris or The Vines, there are those such as Powderfinger, Regurgitator and You Am I - bands who, despite their platinum-selling status down under, wouldn't catch sight of a shiny metal record round these parts unless they were bartending at the Hard Rock Café.

Now it's Motor Ace's turn to venture out on that transglobal journey. They are touted as the new act in their homeland, so this gig at Camden's number-one sweltering rock-pit is the New World equivalent of, say, the Stereophonics playing a garden shed. And, to judge by the unusually subdued local Walkabout pub down the road, this occasion has been noted by the local Aussies, who have flooded to the concert.

The Melbourne four-piece's current (second) album, Shoot This, shot to the top of the Australian charts, selling 100,000 copies when it was released there earlier this year. Tonight marks the start of their Break Blighty offensive that culminates in the UK release of that album - the band's debut over here - at the end of August.

But Camden is thousands of miles - and another world - from Canberra, and the Barfly is only three-quarters full. Still, most of those who have forsaken the glorious summer night to sweat in the airless box know every one of band's guitar-driven alt-pop anthems. At the front, a bloke draped in an Australian flag makes like the Wallabies are thrashing the All Blacks, and all around giddy Aussies pull out their cameras to take close-ups of their heroes. The faithful are rewarded and Motor Ace rip through an eight-song best-of set.

Heavier than Coldplay, poppier than Linkin Park, they play music that perfectly soundtracks the polite teen angst of Dawson's Creek - all gentle moody yearning punctuated by euphoric thrashing choruses. Stripped of its melancholy strings, the upcoming single "Carry On" sounds like "Wonderwall", the front man Patrick Robertson's voice recalling a restrained Noel. "Five Star Laundry" is a heaving bass-heavy groove, refreshingly different from the rest of the set.

Although Motor Ace are capable of rousing, fist-in-the-air moments, their songs are predictably formulaic and the band are restrained, lacking the roaring live presence and raw edge needed to mark them outabove every half-decent guitar band. Tonight the heat was on; things could have got steamy, but Motor Ace wilted.