Shockwaves NME Awards Tour, Academy, Newcastle

White, preppy guitar-boys with nothing much to say about anything and songs familiar from television adverts are the next big thing (again)
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The Independent Culture

There's always one. Every NME Awards Tour features one band, low on the bill, whose popularity will eclipse that of the headliners by the year's end or even the tour's end (past examples being Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs and Florence and The Machine) or in some cases (Arctic Monkeys) before a note has even been played.

On the opening night of this year's four-band foray, The Maccabees are the safe name who've got the Geordie indie kids queuing eagerly down Westgate Road, but unless I'm grossly mistaken, the dark horse coming up on the rails are The Drums.

Ten years ago, a wired, terse, uptight jangly indie guitar band from New York changed the game and set the tone for the new century. At the start of 2010, a wired, terse, uptight jangly indie guitar band from New York ... well, you get the idea. For The Strokes, read The Drums (minus the game-changing part). If The Drums are as big as their reception in Newcastle suggests, it looks as though the Teenies will be a re-run of the Noughties. Here we go again. Groundhog Decade.

Four ridiculously good-looking, preppy chaps with nothing much to say about anything, this year's Big New Hopes specialise in sunny, sparkly-but empty-as-a-lightbulb indie-pop tunes that sound like Vampire Weekend without the modicum of invention, or The Wombats without even that basic level of wit.

In 18 months' time, a lot of people will be embarrassed that they ever gave The Drums houseroom, but by then Moshi Moshi Records will have made millions from the moist gussets they'll initially inspire. I bring you these tidings not in a spirit of great joy. The Drums' inevitable massiveness isn't my fault, but this messenger's wearing Kevlar just in case.

The Big Pink are already ubiquitous for all the wrong reasons. Their egregious earworm of a song, "Dominos", has been used in a heavy-rotation television advert (not, strangely, for bland and spongey pizzas but for the Xbox), peaking at two plays per break over the Christmas period, making the Harrovian duo a social menace on a par with the Go Compare opera singer and Aleksandr the bloody meerkat.

Aside from "Dominos" – or "dom'norz!" as the lungbursting locals would have it – Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell's overproduced oeuvre recalls the tyranny of Mike and The Mechanics or Climie Fisher, and their horrendous hi-fi test-drive music is a disgrace to the once-infallible name of the 4AD label. The Big Pink? The Big Stink, more like.

And so, as another bunch of young, well-bred and (with one exception) white boys in checked shirts with guitars around their necks takes the stage, the samey NME tour rolls ever onwards. Crouch End tigers Bombay Bicycle Club, recipients of an inexplicable big push from Island last summer, combine a supremely annoying washing-machine-on-spin voice with the sort of pedal-heavy guitars which suggest someone who's listened to Neon Bible and then written to the sponsoring magazine's "I Want to Sound Like ..." page. BBC are essentially a very low-budget Arcade Fire. Kiosk Fire, perhaps.

One theory surrounding the etymology of the name of the original Maccabees, a Jewish rebel army from the second century BC, is that it derives from the Aramaic maqqaba, meaning "the hammer", in recognition of their ferocity in battle. When they first arrived on the scene, attempting to associate themselves with that sort of imagery would have been laughable. A Brighton-based band of public school types with a warbly singer and a tendency towards frantic jangling, they were indistinguishable in the imagination from the atrocious Kooks.

However, like many a posho in the past 12 months or so (see also: Horrors, Penate, Jamie T), they've had the decency to actually get any good with their second album. Wall of Arms was a forward-looking advance from the band's wishy-washy debut Colour It In, and the material from it – notably the head-swimming sensurround of "Can You Give It" and "Kiss and Resolve" – justifies that apocalyptic hammer imagery.

For a while, the awkward, ambling presence of Orlando Weeks (pictured) – forward a few steps, back a few steps, like he's dying for the loo – doesn't matter much.

Like their tour mates, The Maccabees are not above whoring themselves to commerce either: the balladeering "Toothpaste Kisses" was used on the Samsung G800, guaranteeing that it's tonight's most popular singalong moment, damn near drowned out by audience woo-woos and whistling. It's a fitting climax to a tour that's aimed, after all, at shifting cans of hairspray.

Next Week:

Simon Price sees how many pairs of fan-thrown panties he can impale on his hair-spikes at a JLS concert

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