The*Ga*Ga*s, Academy, Islington, London

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The Independent Culture

They're a formidable-looking lot, The*Ga*Ga*s, as they prowl on stage to the sound of The Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant".

They're a formidable-looking lot, The*Ga*Ga*s, as they prowl on stage to the sound of The Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant". Four boys decked out in classic rocker gear, with long hair and a smattering of eye make-up, the band bear more than a passing resemblance to their icons Mötley Crüe and Guns N' Roses, and as they launch into their first driving, chuntering song it's hard to avoid the impression that this is an Eighties rock band, in all its pomp and glamour, reincarnated.

Despite the introduction, the Pistols are not a big influence on The*Ga*Ga*s' sound. It has been described as "erogenous rock" and is a sort of amalgamation of the Seattle rockers Pearl Jam with some of the heavy riffs of Rage Against the Machine, laced with plenty of snake-hippery and general rock-star pouting from the lead singer, Tommy.

This sort of rock is often an unattractive proposition, but somehow The*Ga*Ga*s manage to make it work. The riffs are necessarily large and the tunes rattle along engagingly, and it is not until the fourth track that Tommy, looking terrific with his shoulder-length black hair and natty waistcoat, stops to catch his breath and announce a song title. It's called "Majestic", and while you wouldn't go that far, it showcases the band's strength - the three-man harmonies during the choruses thatsoften the heavy pounding which is going on underneath.

The audience, a reasonably large collection of youngsters and ageing metal lovers in what is a smallish, sweaty venue, seem reluctant to get any closer to the stage despite Tommy's encouragements. That has probably more to do with the intensity with which the band are playing and performing, as bassist Toshi stares out menacingly behind an artfully dishevelled fringe, while the drummer, J, administers a fearsome thrashing to his kit.

But the real attention is on Tommy, who is starting to find his stride and is strutting across the stage, flamboyantly discarding his waistcoat to reveal his torso. We're into the middle section now and the band's finest moment, the melancholic and melodic "Taking America". Again, the harmonies are tight between Toshi and the guitarist, Rob, and the chord transitions and pleading vocal recall another band named after baby noises - The Goo Goo Dolls.

There's a run through thedouble-A-side singles "Replica" and "KO", based around a sensitive couplet rather at odds with the band's punishing rhythm ("And I wish that she could dig the way I smile/ But she don't remember me - that ain't her style"), before they launch into the finale. By now, Tommy has leapt from the stage on to the bar and is winding himself around a pole like a randy cat. It's terrific stuff, and the crowd warmed to it. The*Ga *Ga*s, have the tunes and the front man to go far, they play a little like their heavy metal stablemates The Darkness - but without the irony.

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