Review: POP NME Brats: Gorky's Zygotic Mynci; Pavement The Astoria, London

The "come on then, impress us" atmosphere which tends to prevail at this ever-expanding annual showcase recalls the sponsoring publication at its most dislikeable. But the prospect of these two bands sharing a stage is enough to bring all but the most self-satisfied curmudgeon out in goose pimples. It's not every night you get to see Cardigan Bay's freshest- faced purveyors of pastoral mayhem in a head to head with the wry American overlords of infectious angularity. No wonder the venue is so tightly packed that Jarvis Cocker and Howard Marks have to fight their way to the toilets with a pointed stick.

When Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's fourth album emerges in a couple of months' time, it will confirm them as the greatest pop group since the Beach Boys. Tonight, though, they must contend with a horribly unsympathetic sound booth. Having successfully undermined the ambience by putting on an entire AC/DC album while Gorky's set up (and not their best one either), the dark force behind the mixing desk does everything in its power to smother their youthful intricacy in a blanket of booming echo.

Fortunately, the band's newly shorn singer and keyboard wizard Euros Rowlands has charisma in his veins instead of blood. Their next single, "Diamond Dew", builds up an irresistible momentum. (With diehard fan Mark Radcliffe newly ensconced at the Radio 1 Breakfast Show it should carry them further into the public eye than its great, tragically stalled-at- No-41 predecessor "Patio Song".) And raucous - nay, demented - highspots "The Game of Eyes" and "Heart of Kentucky" vanquish the mixing demon to offer an escape route from the traditional poverty of the psychedelic imagination.

If Pavement's collective joie de vivre has been undermined by their status as pillars of the underground establishment, you wouldn't know it to look at them. OK, so guitarist and occasional vocaliser Scott Kannberg does break the one cardinal rule of all live performance - no man over 25 should ever wear pale trousers with a dark shirt. And there is the odd moment in the new songs "Type Slowly" and "Blue Hawaiian" when sardonic frontman Stephen Malkmus's determination to flaunt the modesty of his vocal range borders on the perverse.

The surgingly idiosyncratic current single "Stereo" is one of their best yet, though, and when Malkmus admits to a "pang of guilt" at playing so much unfamiliar material and clicks into a higher gear with the immortal "Silence Kid", the exhilaration meter goes right off the scale. Pavement now have a back catalogue to rival any in the world. As ecstatic mass bouncing up and down threatens to collapse the Astoria floor on to the Tube line below, there is little else for it but to echo the words of "Unfair", the band's alternative Californian state anthem: "Wave your credit card in the air, swing your nunchakas like you just don't care!"

Pavement's new album `Brighten the Corners' (Domino CD/LP/Tape) is out on 10 Feb