Pop: Dust off the old riffs

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The Independent Culture



THE CHIN-STROKING atmosphere that usually pervades up-and-coming band showcases was conspicuously absent at the beginning of Fierce Panda's five-night gathering at the Bull and Gate. Such events generally draw gaggles of errant A&Rs, pickled hacks and industry hangers-on, but on Monday night it seemed that the crowd was there simply to hear good music and show support for one of the last bastions of musical independence.

Fierce Panda has always remained unconcerned with musical high-flyers. The diminutive label prefers to act as a conveyer belt to superstardom, and has shown a prophetic insight into tomorrow's bands. They have so far groomed and nurtured Placebo, Kenickie, 3 Colours Red and Babybird, among others, before chivalrously handing them over to bigger labels.

The indie popsters Linoleum are next on their roster and were headlining the label's first showcase evening, held to celebrate five years in business.

The vocalist, Caroline Finch, had modelled herself on the Sixties girl- about-town style, but came across more like a Carry On film extra, with her false eyelashes, lop-sided beehive and girlie pout. She had secured the attention of the audience long before the music started by wearing a skin-tight, flesh-coloured top that, from a few feet away, created the illusion that she had nothing on at all. As far as the slavering boys at the front were concerned, her attire no doubt made up for the insubstantial opening track. "Slowdown" was intended to hark back to the shoegazers of the early Nineties, but it was an ill-judged choice to open the show.

Their new single, "You're Back Again" offered more verve with its substantial guitar riffs and cute, breathy vocals. "Venus and Libertine" was also delivered with considerable welly and, to the delight of the front row, elicited some tiger-cub snarls from the singer. Unfortunately, her voice couldn't live up to her maniacal facial expressions.

Musically, Linoleum are at their best when hammering home abrasive guitar riffs and frenetic drumming, though Finch's wispy voice is perhaps better suited to the slower, melancholy numbers.

As they trawled through the different guises of indie pop they offered few surprises, though the familiarity that surrounded each song felt strangely comforting. Linoleum don't pretend to be rewriting the past. The fact that they imitate it closely seems a more honest approach - and any band that makes you want to rush home and plunder your own record collection can't be all bad.