Nightjars are not one of those bands who smack you around the head and demand your immediate attention. There is nothing about this band which could be described as a gimmick; they play dark-hearted, unpretentious indie-rock and on the wrong night in a support slot you might barely notice they're there. You would however be doing yourself and them something of a disservice. Come closer, and listen to the way the guitars and bass weave around each other; each carrying a little of the melody and together building a quite intricate picture. The fractured, post-rock patterns which flicker across their powerful songs, adding perfect detail without overcomplicating. And the dispossessed Northern bleakness from Ollie Wright's urgent vocals to Seamus O’Kane’s stormy drums. But it's not all doom and gloom; single "Cease To Exist" has an underlying optimism in the guitar sounds and even a few technical problems can't stop this being a fine performance.
Fear of Music's explosion onto the Manchester circuit a couple of years ago, on the other hand, couldn't fail to grab your attention. Ooh aren't they young!, is that a boy or a girl?, blah blah blah! - and we were as guilty as anyone of hyping them into the stratosphere - admittedly on the back of a clutch of pretty incendiary live performances and a set of almost precociously good tunes - and the A&R men swarmed. Lesser bands would have crumbled under the pressure or basked in the glory - Fear Of Music did neither and just went away and wrote a shedload of new songs. To the point where there's almost nothing in tonight's set from those early days, the sole survivor The Waltz (introduced as being "from the dark ages") sounding more caustic than ever, like someone attacking a fairground ride with a chainsaw. Even their latest EP gets just a passing nod with the metallic power-pop of "16". Their rate of acceleration is almost frightening - there's a new record on the way in the new year and some of the tracks previewed tonight are so freshly written they don't have proper titles yet. It's messy at times and a couple of tunes still need kicking into shape, but there's nothing more thrilling than watching a band develop before your very eyes. Mike Ward's always had more than a touch of the post-rock about his guitar work, and here there are times when it sounds like he's attacking the instrument with power tools, meanwhile there are crushing blasts of hardcore punk-metal slipping in round the sides. Some recent live sets have even seen a piano and a violin expand the musical horizons in still more directions, but there's none of that tonight; just a full-on dirty rock'n'roll set. Which is exactly what you want at this time on a Friday night.