The Duke Spirit, Dorchester Arms, Southampton<br></br> VHS Or Beta, 93 Feet East, London

Its walls adorned with nostalgic enamelled Guinness ads, that painting of dogs playing pool (with no obvious irony) and a photo of a man inspecting a horse's posterior, The Dorchester Arms doesn't look especially indie. A typical Old Man's Pub, if anything. And that, perhaps, is the gag.

For Liela, who lives above an old-style pub herself, this must feel like home. For everyone else, it's bizarre. The Duke Spirit are headlining the first-ever Pub NME tour, which takes in such rock'n'roll hotspots as Cheltenham, Canterbury and Salisbury and venues with such names as The Beercart Arms, rebranding them for the evening. NME propaganda items and Duke Spirit matchbooks and beermats abound.

It's an intriguing, make-or-break time for The Duke Spirit, halfway between the initial hypewave and a proper breakthrough. They don't need to be playing their tense, dark, unnerving, compelling rock in venues this small, but I salute them for doing something more interesting than slogging around the usual circuit.

Above the throng, I see Moss, her arms twisting ceilingwards like cobras and giraffe-necks, her eyes seeming to flash red with New Labour, New Danger intensity. P J Harvey, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux: she's watched them all, and inherited some of their spirit (as opposed to merely nicking their moves). And this is why, even though they aren't startlingly original, it's going to be worth keeping an eye on what The Duke Spirit do next.

The details of Craig Pfunder's life seem almost too exotic to be true. The lead singer/guitarist with American funk-rock quartet VHS Or Beta is of North Korean origin but grew up in a Kentucky orphanage which, legend has it, burned down, destroying all records. To this day, he doesn't know exactly how old he is: it could go two years either way. The joke one could make about VHS Or Beta, of course, is that, when estimating the vintage of their music, you'd have to allow two decades either way, such is their debt to the music of the Eighties.

Growing up in Louisville, VHS Or Beta were raised on college rockers like Slint, until the first time they heard Daft Punk and realised "that's the kind of music we want to make". But current release Night On Fire is far more reminiscent of the Eighties (Duran's guitar chops, The Cure's vocal howls), putting them in the same bracket as fellow retro fiends The Faint and The Rapture.

Onstage, the dry theory comes to life. Pfunder is an incredible frontman, frequently swapping instruments with bandmates Mark Palgy and Zeke Buck, and knocking out the sort of quicksilver guitar solos that cause spontaneous rounds of applause. VHS Or Beta are ones to watch. Even in the DVD age.

s.price@independent.co.uk

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