Outlandos d'Amour

London, GB
The Music Machine
The Table, The Police: Music Machine, Camden, London...

A band that calls itself The Table must, at the very least, lack sound commercial principles - and will hopefully have something novel to offer. Or maybe they're just crazy?

I was mulling over these possibilities whilst awaiting their appearance on the most ill-conceived stage of all time, a platform suspended fifteen feet above a dance floor and tucked away at the back of the Music Machine's stage area. Coupled with the gaudy, plastic-plush interior and lack of sensible lighting (the lights stayed bright even when the groups were on stage), this effectively, reduces any group's chances of generating some atmosphere.

The Table ambled on to this unlikely set-up and nervously began tuning up. Elsewhere they would have looked fairly normal, apart from sporting candy-striped Beach Boy shirts - but they were a little incongruous considering that, with The Boys topping the bill, this was supposed to be a Punk Nite. The motley crowd reacted with a solitary cry of ''Hippies'' and returned to whatever diversions were at hand. The Music Machine is so designed that it's easy to ignore what's happening on stage.

Tuning up completed, The Table finally began their set. My projections turned out to be correct: their music was a deft combination of ineptitude and imagination, held together by a lunatic edge that threatened to bring everything together in a flash of inspiration or allow things to come shuffling to a halt. It did neither, but the promise was there.

At times they sounded like the Magic Band, and at times like Syd Barrett. The singer had a dry, flat voice, not unlike Robert Wyatt's, and the two guitars weaved and interacted with each other like organised chaos, around the very unusual songs and arrangements.

That they are attempting some subtle and subversive mix of ideas is obvious, as they had prepared, detailed animated films to accompany a lot of the songs. However, I can offer no conclusions as to what exactly they're trying to do because most of the abstruse visual images made little sense to me. The reason for this was that the films are carefully linked to the lyrics, and without knowing the lyrics it was difficult to decipher the films. All that came across was a broad impression of what the various songs were about.

How they can overcome this, and the fact that the films draw attention away from the music rather than complement it, I don't know - but they are definitely an interesting enigma.

I had put the perfunctory audience response down to a case of miscalculated booking, so I was surprised to see that The Police did little better, though their music was far more accessible.

Racy power trio stuff, like a frenzied and energetic version of Bad Company, it was very well played - fast and brash enough to get a new wave tag, but distinct and catchy all the same, particularly the bass player's gleeful white-soul voice.

After The Table, however, they seemed a bit too tame and straightforward.

(c) NME by Paul Rambali