The Music, The Forum, London

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The Independent Culture

In a music year when individuals have shone rather than fashions, this Leeds quartet still managed to appear out of kilter. Business as usual, then, for the last group to be hailed, on their emergence three years ago, as the next Oasis. They had the requisite blustery pronouncements and workmanlike riffing, along with Robert Harvey's wailing vocal that brought to mind an earlier, more eager, Richard Ashcroft. Their greatest asset, though, was a succession of direct, house-influenced rhythms that gave their more uptempo tunes an insistent dynamism.

To follow 2002's eponymous debut album, this year The Music headed Stateside to record with Brendan O'Brien, producer for Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Finding a more rockist edge in their sound failed to expand their fanbase here, though enough hardcore fans remained to pack The Forum only weeks after the band were last in town.

From the off, The Music showed they had cast aside the ecstatic grooves of their youth. Adam Nutter, still the most undemonstrative guitarist on the circuit, launched into a succession of hard, steely riffs. Equally lacking charisma, and with a functional Stephen Gerrard haircut, bassist Stuart Coleman attacked his instrument with the blinkered ferocity of a speed metaller.

Harvey's vocals were as high-pitched as ever, though his behaviour mirrored the change in musical styles. Long, curly locks were swept back to perfect his head-back Robert Plant pose, spoilt when he headbanged between verses. A shame, for the frontman had ditched his most entertaining mannerism: the spins and squats of his northern soul dance moves.

True, these would have been out of place, for The Music attempted on the album Welcome to the North to focus on songcraft rather than their previous mantras. This was let down live by the disjointed arrangements. "Cessation", in particular, was a monstrosity of bluesy riff, stern Metallica bassline and drummer Phil Jordan flailing in a manner no one else could follow.

Later on, the forthcoming single "Breakin'" owed far too much to the funk-rock of Jane's Addiction to be distinctive, with Harvey's whine matching that of Perry Farrell. Their slower "Fight the Feeling" floated away on the dry ice, showing The Music have yet to master the Verve-style blissed-out ballad. Only "Freedom Fighters" retained their previous swagger, while "Bleed from Within" was enlivened by a percussion-based ending nicked from Doves. Strangely, the all-new harder edge actually suited the band's older material. With a fresh lick of metallic paint, "People" was reborn as a Led Zep monster and "Take the Long Road and Walk It" paid homage to the spare delivery of the criminally ignored Six by Seven.

Unfortunately for The Music, other bands do this very British take on rock a lot better. Hundred Reasons and, most successfully, Lostprophets combine their intensity with wit and charisma. If they can't find that in themselves, then The Music had better get their groove back.