| 12.8°C Dublin


Michael Broderick lied to us. He had promised fans that Pat Kenny would be in attendance for Spies' first headline gig of 2014. Because that's what happens after a busy week of press - you start to make friends in high places.

But there's no sign of the veteran broadcaster tonight. Broderick, Spies' boyishly handsome front man, makes a joke about it. I wish I could hear it. One word of advice for the lads moving forward: don't drown out the lead singer. Especially when he's as good as this one. Or, at the very least, get that chap a new microphone - whatever works for you.

We've got an hour of tunes to get through, courtesy of a band that the NME has started to get all excited about. Don't let that put you off. With their Topman wardrobe, sharp haircuts, designer stubble and 80s-flavoured throwbacks (Spies do a very good impression of U2 at 20), it's little wonder that the British press (even the Guardian is in on it) have taken an interest.

Our neighbours have produced a lot of bands like this one. But the Dublin five-piece have an added advantage in that a) they have better songs, and b) they are, at least, a unique entity in their home town. That'll certainly help build the local profile. And make no mistake, they deserve a bigger audience (Whelan's is half empty - I blame the rain).

There's an urgency to this group's delivery. Spies play it loud and tight, serving up an atmospheric mish-mash of strident guitar anthems (Distant Shorelines) and bass-heavy floor-fillers (Moosehead). There's a little bit of Joy Division in there. The Walkmen, too. And, er, Royseven. Whatever the influence, guitarist Neil Dexter wears himself out.


It helps that Spies do things better on stage than on record. Which makes it easier to look past some of the structure issues (where are all the choruses, guys?) and lyrical head-scratchers. "I've got hands and I'm gonna use them for something," sings Broderick. Right so. Good for you.

They move in sync, like a group of brothers, steadily weaving those fuzzy, six-string waves, scintillating keys and ethereal vocals around drummer Jeffrey Courtney's thunderous beats. Sure, an ecstatic Broderick is still learning the ropes, and he hasn't yet figured out how to hold himself, but with a soulful cry like his, it shouldn't be too long before things fall into place.

There's an air of confidence about their song book that suggests Spies are ready for whatever the big time has in store. They'll need to put out an album first (they've been releasing EPs since 2010).

What matters is that this amiable group of 20-somethings showcase a flashy, determined and remarkably stylish indie-rock set. Again, they should be playing to larger crowds. All in good time. Rating: