The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club, Buffalo Bar, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Like their most notable recent art-rock predecessors Franz Ferdinand, The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club's three members are former art-school students, and tonight they begin the gig with an unnerving little ritual that might come directly from The Performance Art Handbook. As if possessed, the trio stand rigid, clashing drumsticks together in an awkward rhythm. Thebassist Louise Mason, standing at the front in a stylish black vintage shift dress, violently throws her sticks to the floor. The band have got our attention.

This is the second night of the annual Artrocker festival and, down in thebuzzing atmosphere of the rock'n'roll Buffalo Bar, intimacy levels are rising. The Cardiff trio's "Amateur Man" sees Mason sidle up to face guitarist Adam Taylor, moving hypnotically in a slow, writhing rhythm, until their guitars are almost touching, with a strangely ecstatic look on her face. She stamps her black boots as she plucks her dominating bass lines.

All three members are set on embodying the perturbing tales of last year's self-titled debut album which featured less-than-genteel topics, from dyslexic children to burying the dead. The equally striking drummer, Emma Daman, stares menacingly as she rolls the beats and shouts her disjointed vocals. It is all thoroughly rehearsed.

The spiky rhythms of the band's twisted post-punk rock are partly created by Mason's yelps, which are overlaid by Daman's shouty vocals. Taylor's howls and the yelps owe much to The Pixies and their ensemble chanting is tight, matching the drum beats. Taylor, in shirt and jacket, but sporting non-gentlemanly stubble, shakes about as the lights flicker in "Stupid As Wood", but only takes front of stage towards the end of the set for "Dead Anyway".

Audience calls for "Ban the Gin" - an ode in defence of the liquor banned in 18th-century England after it was blamed as the cause of society's licentiousness - are satisfied at the end of the set. While The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club's tunes are already catchy, the effect of their visually captivating live performance sheds a new darkness on their music. And the darkness is infectious.

Touring until 27 Jan ( www.thevictorianenglish gentlemensclub.co.uk)

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