For impresario Michael Morris, who trawled through hundreds of tapes for his current 'Now You See It' South Bank season of quirky and innovative one-off performances, the Tiger Lillies, playing tonight at the Purcell Rooms, are 'the most original British band since The Smiths'. David Byrne picked them for his selection of bands supposedly promoting his Luaka Bop label tomorrow, even though the band aren't actually on the label. Martin Jacques is the Tiger Lillies' tragicomic front man and songwriter. It would be fair to say that he is not the type who goes in for positive thinking or a New Age view of the world. Their first CD is on their own Misery Guts label. They have immensely catchy tunes with titles like 'Heroin And Cocaine', 'You're Old' ('Arthritis makes you sad/ Angina is regina/the good times are all bad') and the anthemic 'Born to Fail'.

Jacques sings castrati-style and trained himself as an opera singer while living above a strip joint in Soho for five years. Jacques' experience of London low-life fuelled the lyrics for his songs about prostitutes and losers. He'd fronted the seriously weird and unlamented band, God and the Supreme Beings, in the late Seventies ('I sang with a flowerpot on my head') before writing hundreds of songs while living a hermit-like existence in the Eighties. Jacques was seriously out of synch with the yuppie era and was 'making a semi-legal living' selling hash pipes in Berwick Street Market, quite often dressed as a woman. Many of his songs were destroyed when the Soho flat eventually went up in flames.

Jacques sings like a man possessed, while playing accordion, backed by the slinky double-bassist Phil Butcher and the unhinged James Joyce-lookalike drummer Patrick McHughes. The influences are essentially pre-rock 'n' roll - Left Bank stuff like Edith Piaf, Kurt Weill and Louis Armstrong. Despite being champion miserabilists, the band's gigs are surprisingly festive occasions. They may be too uncompromising to make it to Wembley Arena, but they have all the makings of 'cult band of the year'.

The Tiger Lillies are appearing in the Now You See It season at the South Bank, 10.30pm at the Purcell Rooms tonight; and with Luaka Bop bands tomorrow at the QEH, 7.45pm (071-928 8800)

(Photograph omitted)