MTV2 5th Birthday, Brixton Academy

Party time for those nice young men from MTV
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The Independent Culture

Though it's a long time since the MTV networks really cared to promote music (much like KFC, the relevant letter remains in their acronym long after it ceased to be their unique selling point), MTV2, its "alternative" channel, remains the best they have to offer. Once you have learnt to cope with zany Zane Lowe's clueless, sub-Jo Whiley interview technique (best response - change channels), this largely ad-free station manages to fill its programming with plenty of nice young men playing that Indies music. It even broadcasts the best selection of videos on television right now, unfortunately marginalised by its post-midnight Saturday/Sunday slot. I'd mention the show's name but they seem to change it every month.

But it has to be taken seriously by the business, which is why some of the best and brightest hopes are here tonight, performing short sets to be broadcast live across Europe. In fact the openers, New York's highly touted Rapture, are playing the first of two shows this evening, heading across town to headline later. They might not be quite as brilliant as some suggest - their long-delayed debut Echoes is good rather than great and occasionally wildly derivative - but they're one hell of a live act. Pity so many people missed them.

Ireland's Thrills are about as "alternative" as the likes of the unlamented Hot House Flowers, but they have some virtues. There are plenty of decent instantly familiar tunes and a certain charm carries them through their duller moments. But in a few years you'll enjoy hearing one of their old singles unexpectedly and wonder to yourself, "Whatever happened to that lot?"

Although the T-shirt nation yell when requested like the kids on Crackerjack no one's here to see anyone but the Darkness. Right now, they're more popular than football and certainly a better bet as son-in-laws. Although they might be playing and selling to tens of thousands these days, they're still the same band I saw dumbfounding 60 punters in a pub a year ago. During the climactic song "Love on the Rocks with No Ice" Justin Hawkins is carried around the crowd still playing his guitar, but those crowds are much bigger now.

For all the debate over their supposed "ironic" qualities, they write great pop songs. "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" is a top three hit for a very good reason. If you do not "get" them, you do not "get" pop music and are a curmudgeon to boot. Whoever put Leeds' drab The Music after that certainly has a cruel sense of humour - still sounding like a school band struggling with Led Zeppelin's "Immigrants Song", they remain entrancingly tedious. Do their families even know what they do beyond "Something in the music biz"?

Ditto their ultimate inspiration, LA's long over-rated Jane's Addiction, reformed after a long hiatus and promoting a new album with some of the goriest band shots ever (let's hope it's "ironic"). Their appeal still eludes me. Perry Farrell, owner of the worst ever rock pseudonym, hops about like a cross between Pee Wee Herman and Basil Fawlty and he's the best thing about their turgid heavy-handed rock show.

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