Peggy Sue, The Lexington, London

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The Independent Culture

"If all you want is peace and quiet," Peggy Sue sing tonight on their new single, "Song & Dance", "you've come to the wrong place."

Those who last saw them in their early days as Peggy Sue and the Pirates, when they were support act of choice for nascent royalty of the alternative folk scene Mumford & Sons and Kate Nash, would certainly be startled by the accomplished, brooding racket the Brighton-based trio make now. The second album they're launching in this packed north London pub, Acrobats, was produced by P J Harvey's right-hand man John Parish, and recalls the abrasive blues of Harvey's early work. Their songs' wry look at the follies committed for sex and love is, though, their own.

The co-vocalists and guitarists Katy Beth Young and Rosa Slade retain the close harmonies and amiable natures of their more shambolic, acoustic pasts. But the fuzzed-up rumble that was already building by the time of last year's debut album, Fossils and Other Phantoms, could belong to another band. This Peggy Sue are schooled on The Breeders and Sonic Youth, and would be too violently uncouth for a Mumford & Sons bill. Young and Slade's romantic toughness comes through on "Funeral Beat" as they sing, "Though I'm broken I'll still break you," and on the long, ambitious "Cut My Teeth", too. There they memorably promise "I won't turn blue that way again" over Olly Joyce's spare drums, finishing as an a capella duet. "Boxes" conjures a mournful requiem on a relationship from the act of moving home, dismantled possessions reflecting more personal destruction.

Martial drums punctuate music that drags like the thought of the man concerned. But there isn't the sense of real psychodramas being played out, as in early Harvey or Nick Cave. These are literate, atmospheric observations from two women too coolly amused by love's buffoonery to be broken by it.

A mid-set cover of "Hit the Road Jack" is a useful reminder of the playful attitude that made them name themselves after Buddy Holly's great teenage love song. The four years of singles, EPs and name-changes before their 2010 debut album suggested uncertain growing pains. Peggy Sue finally seem to know who they are, and on tonight's showing, many others should too.

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