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White Heat, London

Every few months another bunch of American hopefuls hit London in a bid to pick up a reputation from the notoriously excitable British press (and public). And every time, the campaign runs as follows: stick out a single on a cool indie; play a handful of shows at hipster club nights like Trash; snare a support slot with a band who did the self same thing three years earlier; have good hair.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes we don’t even notice it’s happening. With Voxtrot – five quietly cool kids from Austin, Texas – they have the advantage that some indie fans have been waiting for months for this UK debut. And look: forthcoming single on Playlouder recordings, debut show at secret Queens Of Noize gig on Saturday, gig for the haircuts at Trash on Monday, and if it’s Tuesday it must be White Heat at Madame Jo Jo’s. Here we go again.

And here comes the rampant enthusiasm, right on cue. When Voxtrot were first picked up by the UK’s indiepop underground a year ago, excitement was sparked by a set of songs that fused Belle & Sebastian’s gentle charm with the fearless, poetic energy of early Smiths. Since then, the band have moved on slightly: tonight, there are hints of Squeeze and Ben Folds Five, and songs that sound like they’re aiming beyond a crowd of sensitive kids in cords and hairclips.

What hasn’t changed, thankfully, is the band’s most endearing element: singer Ramesh Srivastava. A sparkly-eyed 22-year-old in a red Bob Dylan t-shirt, he’s a heartthrob in waiting – a blur of boyish nervous energy, all smiles and determination. When a bunch of fans at the front start screaming at him, probably more for fun than for genuine devotion at this stage, it feels very, very believable. Give it six months and they’ll be joined by countless others, all screaming for real this time. You can just see it.

What makes Ramesh (and you just know he’s going to be a one name pop star, no question) so engaging is also what makes Voxtrot’s songs so instantly lovable. Opener “Raised By Wolves” is amazingly confident, clearly in a different league to the pub rock of the post-Libertines brigade, and yet it runs on a poetry and a spirit that’s shaped entirely by insecurity. Same goes for set highlight, “The Start Of Something”, which has the crowd dancing like it’s Friday night while Ramesh sighs “If I die clutching your photograph/Don’t call me boring, it’s just that I like you.”

All we need now is for Morrissey to turn up and declare Voxtrot to be his favourite band, and their career would be finished. But of all the bands La Moz has chosen to champion over the years, none of them grasped the legacy of The Smiths with the charm, intelligence and wide-eyed passion of Voxtrot. Brace yourself – the band of 2007 just strolled into your heart.

Ian Watson


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