It is desperately trying to snow in Soho tonight and there’s an insistent, nipping wind on the corner where Manette Street meets the Orange Yard, so the hazy glow of The Borderline promises to be something of a warm sanctuary. Warm in the sense that it is a heated premises of course, with two walls worth of body-warming beverages, but also in the sense that it’s the setting for a cosy reunion between capital-dwelling newcomers Night Engine and their dearest hometown support after a string of countrywide academy dates with Leodiensians the Kaiser Chiefs. Needless to say, the atmosphere is sweaty and celebratory; a triumphant homecoming of sorts that is only fuelled further by the arrival of devotion demanding, Leamington Spa duo Coves.
Swerving the more common tropes of the inescapable psych revival, John Ridgard and Beck Wood appear to be reimagining ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ through their very own staunch, and universal, pop aesthetic. It’s an instantaneous fusion and it only takes a few seconds of ‘Run With Me’(s) clattering tambourine and evocative guitar stabs to be hooked; the brash, snarling refrain and gauze-cloaked chords coming over like a sexier, less sedate spin on The xx’s adoration-winning formula. There’s also something very alluring and sultry about the breathy vocals and vivacious delivery of Wood, particularly on debut EP closer ‘Fall Out Of Love’, where the boy-girl duo sound like Summer Camp taking a skinny dip in Kevin Shields’s lush, fuzz-drenched noise. They also air the sleek, Lana Del Rey-meets-Goldfrapp rock of new single ‘Last Desire’, which is the precise point Who’s Jack decides this is better than hype; it’s the emergence of a moon-bound twosome (who’ll probably make a killing from hair gel adverts along the way).
Of course, the four-piece they support tonight are no stranger themselves to the H-word, after being continuously tipped ever since their inaugural Bowie-ish demo ‘I’ll Make It Worth Your While’ surfaced online last September. The wheels are still very much in motion, however; the audience is in fact almost triple the size since we last saw them open Huw Stephens’ night at The Social. They’ve also picked up a few live tricks from the support slots in place of the now sadly defunct Race Horses the week previous, with the aforementioned demo now sounding tightly road-established; a perfectly executed, rip-roarious opener. Rouge-topped frontman Phil McDonnell also seems to be honing his onstage charisma as well, triggering amusement with an impromptu snippet from the Hollyoaks theme tune; “Do you like that?”, he barks, prior to the gang vocals and spiky Television-ish guitar of brand spanker ‘Bright Light’. This new cut also sees him strut and gurn like some sort of bumbling Jarvis Cocker/Marc Bolan hybrid, fitting seen as the vintage synth settings throughout evoke those used on the latter’s androgynous masterpiece ‘Dreamy Lady’. If there’s any doubt that this is the place to be tonight – our Twitter timeline is, after all, bulging with dissection of tonight’s main event: The Brits – the Franz-isms of recent single ‘Seventeen’ are aired to dizzying elation. It’s a timely calendar clash considering this is exactly the type of contagious, three-minute burst that could crossover onto our national pop platform next time around.