Sweet Sweet Lies, The Haunt, Brighton

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The Independent Culture

It's always the anti-romantics who are the truest romantics of all. In order to be disappointed by something, one needs to have been a believer in the first place. Anyone who's listened to ABC's The Lexicon Of Love will know that already.

Enter, in a cloud of smoke and violet light, Sweet Sweet Lies. Seldom has the greeting "Merry Christmas" been so heavily laden with irony. Decked out in Six Feet Under chic – sombre suits, white shirts, black ties – this dissolutely suave Sussex sextet come dressed for business, that business being what W B Yeats termed "the foul rag and bone shop of the heart". As the name suggests, Sweet Sweet Lies' defining topic is the tangled web of human deceit. As the name doesn't suggest, they deal in bitter, bitter truths.

Led by handsome devil Dominic Von Trapp, with Rickenbacker-twanger Michael Hayes taking lead vocal on a third of the set (pointing at a Go-Betweens, Forster/McLennan dynamic), SSL play punch-in-the-guts folk-pop with hints of spaghetti surf, whisky-flavoured waltz, campfire singalong and New Orleans funeral jazz, all delivered with last-chance-before-we-die intensity.

Their debut album, due in January on Something/Nothing, contains some of the sharpest and wittiest writing I've encountered in years, and ought to have everyone burning their Mumford & Sons CDs in embarrassed contrition. In such songs as the ferociously vengeful "Capital Of Iceland" and the mordantly self-loathing "The Day I Change", I hear echoes of Cave, Cocker and Cohen, Merritt, Momus and Morrissey.

Von Trapp is one of those guys, and Sweet Sweet Lies are one of those bands: damaged and disappointed, but still resolutely romantic. And I can buy that, all day long.