POP: I'm sure I saw them on a poster...

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Doves, 100 Club, London

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Jim's Super Stereoworld, Kentish Town Bull and gate London

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Merz, Camden Dingwalls London

FOR DOVES, it's all about division of labour. A strict rotation system ensures that no one commandeers the glory or fades into the background. One minute there is an ashen-faced man standing, singing with heart-felt sobriety. But blink and he is grinning demonically and bashing the life out of a drum-kit. In fact, amid this five-piece, only the keyboard-player remains static, though this could be down to the fact that he is fenced in by his own equipment.

Or perhaps we're all just seeing things. In the sweltering confines of the 100 Club anything seems possible, and Doves have their work cut out just persuading us to stay. But their hazy psychedelia could have been specially composed for such sweaty midsummer evenings - one track even begins with the chirp of a cricket.

Doves have already caused a minor stir as Badly Drawn Boy's sometime backing band, though the obstinate cack-handedness of their patron is nowhere to be seen. They have the extraordinary ability to sound concurrently comatose and precisionist, with each acoustic-based song seeming tightly composed yet meandering of its own volition. A couple of jangly indie numbers threaten to puncture the atmosphere, though Doves clock the change and soon revert back to their cosily dazed melodies.

Merz look to succeed Gay Dad in terms of hype. After a much-publicised A&R scramble, Epic are reported to have finally secured the band for a staggering pounds 250,000, but judging by the band's performance, the record company have been victim to a cruel joke.

Conrad Lambert, the singer and driving force of Merz, has a voice so high-pitched and abrasive it makes every nerve in your body run for cover. Moving between camp falsetto and a faux-tribal squall, his vocal chords sound like a tom-cats' midnight convention, and even the presence of laid-back hip-hop and reggae grooves cannot soften his relentless rasp.

In interviews, Lambert likes to bang on about his travelling experiences and sells himself as some sort of global savant, though if this is the kind of racket he comes back with, he should never be allowed out again.

Jim's Super Stereoworld are the latest project of Jim-Bob, formerly of Carter USM and now signed to the willfully low-key Fierce Panda label. It appears that Jim-Bob has been taking lessons in cabaret in the years since Carter's demise. Dressed in a gloriously horrible lounge suit, he delights in blowing bubbles over the audience and just stops short of pulling rabbits out of a hat. Child-like plinky-plonky keyboards, Jim'll Fix It samples and song-titles like "Bonkers In The Head" simply confirm the notion that Jim-Bob is indulging in his taste for the absurd. Just roll over and have your tummy tickled.

Fiona Sturges

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