Houdini Dax, an up-and-coming trio from Cardiff, have built up a sizeable following in the Capital pounding out a swinging-sixties fusion of Merseybeat, Garage Rock and semi-skimmed Psychedelia, that’s seen them compared with everyone from The Beatles and The Beach Boys to Hanna-Barbera’s spoof TV band, The Banana Splits. On tonight’s evidence, though – a peppy fifty minutes of polished pop ‘n’ roll – they’re the Kaiser Chiefs on a caffeine rush,Supergrass minus the sideburns, even Franz Ferdinand with a sense of humour implant.

Kicking off their exuberant set, in front of a disappointingly threadbare crowd, with forthcoming single “Apple Tree”, a jaunty number with a big-boned chorus, it’s immediately clear that this is a band that knows how to write a radio-friendly tune. That first impression is soon reinforced by a succession of adroitly crafted pop songs, all penned with a panache that ensures you’re gonna fall head over heels in love with them well within the three minute confines of commercial radio.

Other highlights tonight include the tongue-in-cheek trauma of “Found Love at the Dole Office”; “I went down to the Old Arcade / to break up a coin and drink some lemonade / I saw a girl who misunderstood / she was too good – looking for her own good”, the harmonious, hands free, a-cappella of “Let’s Stick Together” and boisterous live favourite “Get Your Goo On” with its stop-go juggernaut riff that singer Jack Butler was keen to milk for all its worth. The upstairs room at the Rhondda Hotel is about as far away from Vegas as you can possibly get, but there is a touch of the showman about Butler that even tonight’s tepid atmosphere can’t quite diminish and perhaps goes someway to explaining the surprise performance of Elvis’ cabaret classic, “Suspicious Minds”, as tonight’s encore.

It’s been four years since the release of their debut album, ‘You Belong to Dax Darling’, and that time has evidently been put to good use in the rehearsal room. The rhythm section of Owen Richards (bass) and Dave Newington (drums) is effortlessly watertight, while Butler on guitar fleshes out the combo’s crisp sound with fiery guitar solos.

Tonight’s gig, unsurprisingly, showcased material from their long overdue sophomore album (they’re in the studio at long last), however, the fact that the set failed to include even a single song from the invigorating ‘You Belong to Dax Darling’, suggests, perhaps, that the band is making a clean break with its own past. The newer numbers, particularly “Our Boy Billy” and “Good Old Fashioned Maniac”, a curious omission from tonight’s set list, seem emboldened by experience and adversity (four years is, after all, a long time between albums for a teenage band trying desperately to establish itself).

It’s evident that the boys have been doing some growing up in the mean time and that they may, at last, be on the verge of fulfilling the rich promise that ‘You Belong to Dax Darling’ first hinted at. Everything, now, depends on the much anticipated follow up; it might just catapult them into the front rank of post-Britpop guitar bands.

Source by Kevin McGrath

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