The Thyme Machine: Red House, Sheffield

Tonight’s popshow is hosted by new kids on the block Macho Music is Stupid, the fresh project from the familiar face behind Pop-o-matic.

If you’ve been attending gigs in Sheffield for a while, chances are you’ll remember the melodramatic surf fuzz of Screaming Mimi. Betari’s Box is the new venture from Loretta and Jon of Mimi fame, along with Jenny who was formerly in Balor Knights. Tonight is their first gig, and whilst there are a few technical issues (and almost a lead singer meets drum kit scenario) they certainly impress an appreciative crowd.

Don’t expect more of the same though; the trio demonstrate tonight that Betari’s Box are a very different animal. Eschewing their former musicals styles in favour of a new wave indie-pop ethos, Loretta is still a femme fatale of the microphone. Her vocals add a luscious sparkle; fierce concentration is etched on her face as she extracts every last drop of noise from a Dictaphone. They open with ‘Crooked Lines’ which is a shimmering gem of a pop song, whilst ‘Perfume’ arouses lingering memories of the Long Blondes. The highlight though is ‘Torment of Martha’, which feels like something from the good side of the ‘80s.

Dapper London based quintet The Understudies are next on stage, and they really impress. Their music has a classic feel to it, evoking a strong sense of time and place; performing tales and love and regret. Whilst ‘Flicknives’ brings to mind a rainy night in London and the melancholy sounds of another era, ‘Erika K’ has a more celebratory feel; mixing the catchy tones of The Housemartins with the easy listening of the ‘50s crooner. They are a welcome surprise and their set was littered with delicious slices of life.

The Thyme Machine don’t merely come to town, they really go to town. Setting up their own stage front and encouraging the crowd with party poppers and bubbles, the Lancaster band clearly are in this for sheer enjoyment. With songs about zombies, Scrabble and just about anything that catches their eye, there is a knowing charm and rye sense of humour running through their performance this evening. ‘She Asked “Can You Sing Like Frank Sinatra?’ and ‘Me, My Zombie and I’ have the audience grinning from ear to ear. It’s pure unadulterated fun, and by the time they finish, there are broad smiles all round.