Test Icicles, Voodoo Room, Sunderland

Test Icicles - it's a lame name, but cut them a little slack - aren't what you'd call slick commercialists. From the first pre-recorded beat ("We don't have a drummer!" is one of this trio's regular boasts), there's a stage invasion. Well, it isn't just that there's a stage invasion: it's that a Test Icicles set is one big stage invasion. It's more or less impossible to tell who's in the band and who isn't.

The band, for the record, are Rory Aggwelt (25), Sam Merrann (19) and Devonte Hynez (19). Rory and Sam look like the floppy-haired one out of Bloc Party. Devonte, who doesn't, yells more abuse as headlong Hoxton rock-rap opener "Your Biggest Mistake" crashes into the buffers. "Now I know why I was scared to go out earlier."

For someone who claims to have been raised in Texas and Edinburgh, Devonte Hynez has a suspiciously refined English accent, but that's the International Ruling Class for you. I suspect Test Icicles of being poshos (to be honest, I suspect anyone younger and hipper than me of being posh, purely as a self-defence mechanism), but that's OK. As long as they rock, they're off the hook.

And, if nothing else, a Test Icicles show rocks. Their album, For Transmission Purposes Only, is unlikely to go down in history as a classic, and I know I'll never listen to it again. But that's missing the point. In the flesh, under a sweaty low ceiling, with half the crowd storming the stage and the other half wandering away in disbelief, Test Icicles are mental, and I'm glad they're out there, making a mess.

Hynez's reluctance to engage in local sightseeing is understandable. Turn the wrong corner in the city centre, and you risk running the gauntlet of the Fred-Perried "charvers" (as they call chavs round these parts). At the taxi shelter across the road, there's blood all over the glass.

Sunderland is the town for people who find Newcastle too pretentiously metropolitan. It's all about choice, as Mr Blair keeps telling us, and in this venue you have a choice between toilet cubicle with paper but urine over the seat, or toilet cubicle with no paper but a dry seat, or toilet cubicle with vomit everywhere. The between-band DJ plays Kasabian and - I kid you not - Stereophonics without flinching. It's another world.

There are a smattering of "scene" haircuts inside the Voodoo Room, but three of them, it transpires, appear to belong to the band's girlfriends, imported from London (they get a turn at shouting on the mic too). There's a visible culture clash going on here. Test Icicles are missionaries, exporting Hoxton values to Wearside.

"We've just had a No.1 single," jokes Aggwelt (or is it Merrann?). "Oh no, that wasn't us!" Test Icicles, it's fair to say, will never do an Arctic Monkeys. Say what you like about Devonte, Rory and Sam, but - contrary to the Mackem heckler - they aren't careerists whatsoever. If it's careerists you want, look no further than the studied DIY stunts and fake approachableness of the post-Libertines lot. Test Icicles, it's fair to say, just don't care.


See CDs, page 16. Test Icicles play the Barfly, Birmingham (0870 907 0999), tomorrow; Joiners, Southampton (02380 225612) Weds; LSE London (020 7405 7686), Thur