My July

Bomb Factory, The Portland
I think Bomb Factory sum up what REPEAT is all about much better than The Virgin Suicides ever will, and I can only hope that they get a release in the not too distant future. Instead of copying the Manics and the Pistols wholesale, and missing the point of each band (the Manics originality and desperation and the Pistols working class energy and naivety), Bomb Factory borrow from the musical sparsity of Crass and the delivery of John Cooper Clark to create their own hybrid that roles on a good beat but talks about issues that are real to the band. Titles like 'Fame Atrocity', 'The Baseball Caps are Waiting' and 'Night Bus' give you an idea of the subject matter, and while the edges were a little rough (it was their first gig) they went down well, and deservedly so.

Sparklehorse, The Junction
Sparklehorse were a band I'd heard a few tracks by but hadn't followed up on - I will now. While they were dull as dishwater on stage, with nothing to look at and very little between-song banter, the quality was enough to keep me transfixed for the first half-hour or so. After that I lost interest, largely because I wasn't familiar with the material but also because it got a bit samey after a while. For the uninitiated they have a Nick Cave influenced vibe, which is all whiskey, fags and attitude. If this had been at a smaller venue with a bit of soul and they'd played for 45 minutes, I'd still have goose bumps now.

Um & The Man From Uranus, The Portland
Cambridge's kings of odd electronica in a double-header at the Portland attracted the usual 30 or so punters - where the hell were the rest of you? I get as bored raving on about Um as you probably do reading about it but I'm gonna keep doing it until you bastards start turning up at his shows, and the same goes for Mr Uranus too. Um is a performance poet who dresses up, sings along to an odd and usually funky DAT tape and rambles about all sorts of things in an endearing and funny way, and tonight was no exception.
The Man (or, as it was tonight, Men) from Uranus can vary between spacey soundscapes and upbeat dance tunes, and tonight's show was the latter. With various masks, slide projections and weirdness on stage, it was a top night of offbeat musical imagination.

Nerf Herder, The Boat Race
Yeah yeah, they did the Buffy theme tune. Thankfully tonight they only had to play it once as it was a strictly (well, as close as the Boatrace gets to strictly) over-18s night so there weren't loads of kids screaming for it over and over again, which left lots of time for the good stuff. 'Courtney', 'Lamer Than Lame', 'Pantera Fans in Love', 'Sorry' - all the classics were on show. It's not big and its not clever, but they've got the nerdy image down pat, the tunes are classic pop punk/Ramones and the words are childish and funny - just add alcohol. Hurrah.

The Koreans & The Pony Collaboration, The Boat Race
Another debut gig, another blinder. The Pony Collaboration have sprung from the ashes of Cambridge indie faves Return of Id, who are all now poncing about in London running up huge student debts. The teen energy has been replaced with a whole bunch of other stuff - female harmonies, melodicas, xylophones, you name it - but the quality songwriting is intact, as are the touching lyrics, gangly looks and complete lack of coordination. Gotta love 'em. The closest band sound-wise is probably Cinerama, which is a big compliment coming from me.
I'd got the Koreans single, 'Machine Code', and was completely blown away. They took the stage looking all weird and interesting, played the b-side of the single (which is ok), burst through 'Machine Code' and then, well, faded fast. Said single is a rush of working class emotion over a slow burning tune fuelled by 80s keyboard sounds and, as it builds, some thumping guitar action. Shame the rest of the set was dull, if competent, Rolling Stones pomp that lacked any of the imagination evident in the debut. Shame.

Right Turn Clyde, Houston 500 & The Broken Family Band, Milton Country Park
Not the most auspicious of gigs for any of these three, but credit to them for putting on a good show in front of a small and lack lustre audience on a crappy summer's day in an ant-ridden field in Milton.
The BFB kicked things off and never got out of first gear, but when the songs are this good it doesn't really matter. While the on-stage banter was missing and some of the lyrics were toned down for the kids, their rambles through folk, pop and indie are honed to perfection, with a battery of humour and poignancy to back it up.
It was my first Houston 500 experience, and with their Cambridge Band Competition connection I was a little dubious (farcical nonsense that it is). However, they rock, big time, with an old school edge that is far from original but thoroughly entertaining. They even dressed up for the occasion and finished with 'Ace of Spades', which saw the, er, mosh pit swell to as many as six people at one point.
'The Clyde' rounded things off, showing that their recent move to fulltime musicianship is justified. They walk it like they talk it now, with a tight punk pop sound that, with its metal overtones, stands them up a notch in a very busy playing field. The lyrics are good, the tunes tight and the onstage show just some pyrotechnics away from honed. Let's just hope that new label Deck Cheese do them justice.

(NOTE: Other bands played at these gigs too. If I didn't mention them, I didn't like them and I can't be arsed to slag them off, with the exception of My Friend Irma at Milton, who I missed altogether due to a bizarre trip to Cambourne and an insatiable craving for chips.)

Chris Marling