Customer: It's not much of a cheese shop, is it?
Owner: Finest in the district!
Customer: (annoyed) Explain the logic underlying that conclusion, please.
Owner: Well, it's so clean, sir!
Customer: It's certainly uncontaminated by cheese....
“The Cheese Shop sketch”, Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Like a real life cousin of Monty Python’s fictional cheese shop, Pure Groove, a record shop which has recently opened in the Farringdon area of London, infamously only offers 100 different records for sale at any time. In the current climate, with record shops closing down left, right and centre (nearby Berwick Street stalwart Sister Ray reportedly went into administration just last week) this would appear to be admirably foolhardy at best, commercial suicide at worst. Especially given that the minimal stock is primarily vinyl (much of it 7” singles) by lesser-known ‘indie’ artists who are unlikely to be familiar to the scant passing trade (during the week this consists largely of office workers on their way to buy a sandwich from the nearby Tesco - one can imagine them requesting the new Arctic Monkeys CD only to be informed, “We don’t get much call for it round here, Sir” - while at the weekend the area is largely deserted).

Mercifully, Pure Groove have a trick up their (record) sleeve to entice the more discerning music punters to make the journey to their door. Several times a week, they play host to a free lunchtime or early evening gig by one of their favoured artists. Sets typically last around 30 minutes and are often stripped down ‘MTV Unplugged’-style affairs which give the audience a flavour of the act whilst hopefully encouraging them to buy the record or attend the full show which is invariably being promoted. My workplace is just round the corner and in recent weeks I have popped in to see acts such as Edwyn Collins (with Roddy Frame), Micah P Hinson and The Little Ones perform (as well as an exhibition of photos of My Bloody Valentine). But this evening’s performance is the one that I have been most eagerly anticipating.

For the uninitiated, Bombay Bicycle Club are a four-piece guitar band from North London who, through two excellent four-track EPs (The Boy I Used To Be and How We Are, both released last year) and a string of live shows, have laid valid claim to be one of the best new bands in the UK. Much has been made of their ages (they are not yet old enough to vote) but this is an irrelevance – they are not great despite their youth, they are simply great full stop. Singer/guitarist Jack Steadman’s quavering yet sharp vocals recall Stephen Malkmus at his sassiest, while the music is at once anthemic, precise and beautifully melodic, suffused with chiming guitars, like Television covering The Smiths (or, to provide a more contemporaneous albeit contentious reference point, like Bloc Party might sound if they possessed wit, soul and verve).

Tonight’s performance is in support of their debut single ‘Evening/Morning’ (b/w ‘You Already Know’) which was released on Monday. The A-side is a barn-storming stop/start rocker which sounds worryingly like Kasabian in places (producer Jim Abiss also twiddled the knobs on their self-titled first album) but that apart is replete with all the above-mentioned BBC trademarks and is sure to become a live favourite. The flip side is a lovely slow folky number featuring acoustic guitar, brushed drums, what sounds like vibraphone and hushed female backing vocals courtesy of Kathryn Williams. It is easily their most serene offering yet and suggests that they may have been listening to the likes of Bright Eyes of late (actually, at times it particularly reminds me of the quieter passages on Dinosaur Jr b-side ‘Sideways’ but this is probably not the most useful reference). Right, that’s the venue and the single reviewed, on to the gig …

I arrive to find I am the oldest person in the audience – by around twenty years. The scenesters who came in droves to see Peggy Sue & The Pirates yesterday have been replaced by a hoard of fresh-faced teenagers. I shuffle sheepishly to the side trying not to look like a teacher at the school disco where presently I am joined by a few other oldies (we later grin with collective embarrassment when the singer asks, “Who’s going to the Underage Festival?”).

Outside of Spinal Tap, punctuality is a little valued attribute in rock ‘n’ roll and so it is gratifying to see the band threading their way through the crowd and taking the stage at the scheduled time of 6:30pm precisely. They plug in their guitars and kick off with ‘Open House’. Understandably, most of them still look a little uncomfortable on stage; guitarist Jamie MacColl and bass player Ed Nash stay near motionless on either side, only moving to swap instruments between songs for the first few numbers (each proving equally capable with either), while drummer Suren de Saram keeps the beat unobtrusively at the back. However, Steadman is a natural front man. Looking equal parts rock musician and geek with his shoulder length hair and glasses, he displays Thom-Yorke-like tics when at the microphone, his body shuddering as his free hand waves around excitedly, and then jumps around attacking his guitar with joyful abandon throughout the instrumental passages.

Perhaps it’s the early hour, the lack of alcohol (surely not) or the abnormally bright setting but the audience, while obviously enthusiastic, are remaining as static as the majority of the band. “Our manager said that because it’s a shop you can’t move around a lot, but you can move around a little,” Steadman helpfully advises before launching into ‘How Are You’. The band are warming up now and a few heads start to nod as the song, a reflection on the aftermath of a relationship (“we haven't spoken in so long/we can't get past the how are you”), skips from the stacatto bounce of the verses to the climatic guitars of the chorus.

The new single and its b-side follow next, the former benefiting from the live setting and catching out much of the crowd with its false ending, the latter providing a change of pace as Steadman and MacColl switch to acoustic. ‘Ghost’ conjures the spirit, if not the duration, of Marquee Moon, featuring fantastic interplay between the two guitarists - while no big fan of indulgent soloing, I sometimes wish they would indulge just a little bit more and stretch out these moments where the songs really take off. It also provokes a little frisson at the line, “You just fly straight up and come the fuck down”.

‘Cancel On Me’ is a personal favourite and judging by the reception of the audience to its introduction and the bouncing sing-a-long it provokes, I am not alone in my opinion. The set concludes with ‘The Hill’, all Belle & Sebastian lightness until it breaks into the ‘classic rock’ outro of slide guitar over a cascading riff. The band stick around to sign records as I slink off, resolving to catch them in a couple of weeks when they return to play a headining show at Koko (it’s a measure of their greatness that I am prepared to endure such a ghastly venue) and to drag a few friends along to see what they’ve been missing (and no, not just to avoid being the oldest person there).


The single ‘Evening/Morning’ (Young And Lost Club) is available now on limited 7” vinyl and download. Bombay Bicycle Club are touring the UK throughout August (see for details).