Pop: Not our Sunday best

The Sundays Manchester University
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Guitarist Dave Gavurin used to sway gently with a nice semi-acoustic. But here he's cutting up tough, block rockin' beats. Headphones sandwiched between ear and shoulder, he twitches behind his turntables. Former Little Miss Muffet, vocalist Harriet Wheeler, jumps up and down in oversized Nike trainers and presses some buttons on the drum machine to her right. "This one's from our new LP, produced by Danny Saber and remixed by Norman Cook..."

And then I wake up. If this were true, perhaps last week we would have been standing somewhere bigger than one of Manchester's middle-ranking venues. A lot of murky water has passed under the bridge since The Sundays were as big as you like. Their 1989 album, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, was one of John Peel's festive 50 chart toppers and became the melancholy soundtrack to every foundation-course seduction. In the five-year gap between their second album, Blind, and the recent Static and Silence, dance music's unwashed hordes have invaded and persuaded an audience that Morrissey built with his bare hands to tune in. Today's student hipster thinks The Sundays are for recovering from Big Beating on Saturday night and those still concerned with guitars will be packed into an aircraft hangar down the road later this week, howling "Wonderwall" while toasting the rude success of those Beatle buffs from Burnage.

So there we were at what felt like a last-stand for a pre-Prodigy world where there is more to music than idly twisting knobs. When it comes to picking freshers' pockets, they've been shoved to the middle of the queue by the sorry likes of Bentley Rhythm Ace. And with few exceptions, the group's original audience were absent last week. It was all scrubbed young things doing well at college - people who think The Chemical Brothers are twins who work at ICI.

They were enthusiastic enough though, singing along to records that came out when they were thinking of giving up their paper rounds. Harriet Wheeler yodelled and her boyfriend played guitar. A drummer kept funny, folky time and a bass player knocked out those cobwebbed Peter Hook/Cure type strums. Harriet is a hell of a singer in anyone's book. A lazy comparison - the vocal acrobatics in mind - would be Bjork, but she never flies as extraordinarily. The whole thing sounded pretty and petulant but it never soared. The early, "Here's Where the Story Ends" was an encore and the nearest we got to leaving the ground.

The Sundays produce nice music, but when pop has used 10 years of dance culture to clamber to another precarious level, just what are you supposed to do with it?