The Unbelievable Truth

The Boat Race, Cambridge.

"It's sold out, love," says the middle-aged man on the door of the Boat Race as I approach. So it's true - beyond being a tip amongst London media squawkers, the succinct soul-searching rock of Oxford trio (a quintet live), the Unbelievable Truth, is making serious waves. Front man and songwriter Andy Yorke has successfully carved out his own image, far removed from that of older brother Thom of Radiohead, but equally compelling. Although TUT's outer shell is a mellow, somewhat tame, sound not dissimilar to Crowded House or Talk Talk, listen closely, and Yorke's gentle but driven voice is unmistakably that of a man with a gift for laying himself on the line lyrically, often shockingly so. There are none of Richard Ashcroft's epic generalisations or Noel Gallagher's gibberish here. At last, here is an intense songwriter who is a satisfyingly complex twenty- something being with a voice that will have your heart doing back flips.

There's one thing he won't do, and that's play the martyr figure. Andy is prepared to give only so much of himself away. A smile is absent as he says: "Hello, are you all from record companies?" before TUT plunge into the opener "Forget About Me".

Andy's voice is vivid, captivating, but his eyes are pure coolness, looking straight over the heads of the crowd and fixing on the photos on the back wall. You wish someone would hold up a placard reading, "Smile, you bastard!" It's the same rock-steady concentration and composure used to script the pop orthodoxy of "Settle Down", a sunny, strummer charmer during which he shares harmony duties with drummer Nigel Powell. And the only other person's eyes he meets all night are Nigel's, for reassurance as much as timing.

Probably Andy dreads live intimacy because he already knows just how scarily potent an emotional force he is. The single "Higher Than Reason" - about reclaiming his life as a fragile teenager after losing himself to quasi-mysticism - is typical of the lucid, painful way he dissects himself. As he pines: "It all needs rebuilding, but my hands are scratched and scarred", he is clearly a man who will inspire obsessional interest, even when he reveals himself to be a difficult, even brutal lover when extricating himself from relationships, as in "Who's to Know": "I can't accept the things you gave me/ they would only suffocate me."

He takes one enormous risk. During the encore, a pulsy, keyboards-driven "Almost Here", his heated earnestness is swoonworthy. At its close, Andy launches into a truly bizarre falsetto that shoots through the roof. Jaws drop (the blokes), eyes pop (the women). "That was better than sex!" a teenage boy gushes to his mates. It can only get better.

Angela Lewis