REVIEW : Reef, Forum, London

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The Independent Culture
You should never underestimate the part that a simple but effective white T-shirt / blue jeans combination plays in a band's success. Forget lycra. Ditch your cagoules. Drop the Adidas. A white T-shirt and blue jeans says: sex. It says: drugs. It says: rock 'n' roll. More than that, it says: I'm a trainee electrician and I'm up for a spot of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Not everyone can pull it off. But for Reef's frontmen Gary Stringer, who comes a close second only to Brad Pitt in the white T-shirt/ blue jeans stakes, it is one of the reasons why his band's show on Monday was so appealing.

There was the music, obviously. But there's no need to pretend you were there for that. Reef's songs are bubbly and vivacious, and occasionally it even sounds like they actually wrote one themselves as opposed to simply gathering together some dope and guitars and their parents' record collection and hoping for the best.

I'm not certain whether it was audacious or stupid of the band to open with their two finest songs: the joyous "Place Your Hands", where the rubbery riffing of Kenwyn House - who sounds like he should be a listed building rather than a guitarist - took Reef's drunken blues beyond the perimeters of pub rock for once; and the restless "Good Feeling", during which Stringer's irrepressible, vaguely obscene grunts of "Mmmm-mmmm" made the audience fancy him almost as much as he fancied himself.

The music didn't get any better than in those first 10 minutes. But although indulging in intense conversation can be preferable to listening to Reef play, it was rare to find your eyes straying from the stage. Stringer is a commanding performer: half plumber's mate, half primate, with a jelly- legged dance that suggests some horrific genetic fusion of the two. At one point, you think his unique rhythmic spasms must be attributed to having stuffed a tambourine down the back of his jeans, but even when he dispenses with that, he still moves as though he's in desperate need of physical therapy, letting his crotch lead him around the stage like a rabid pitbull dragging its befuddled owner in its wake.

It's still doubtful that the music will have any enduring impact; the ramshackle new album, Glow, certainly indicates that Reef aren't in the business for longevity. But as a young, sassy, hormone-fuelled, quick- fix second-generation Stones tribute band, Reef have the attitude and the looks, not to mention the white T-shirts and blue jeans, to win a temporary place in your heart.

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