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Thing of the week:
By Ian Grant

Pressure Point, Brighton
14 December 1998

Upstairs at the Richmond in Brighton. It's called "Pressure Point" now, in the way that things generally are (they've painted the walls and the drinks are more expensive), but it's still upstairs at the Richmond at heart. Not the most likely setting for pop miracles but pop is as pop does and Polak discard miracles aplenty tonight.

A bit of history first. We're back to the Bardots again, I'm afraid. Oh yes. A band that dared to walk all the great tightropes - between sneering snobbery and sweeping romanticism, introversion and arrogance, pretentious self-indulgence and a knack of knocking out three minute masterpieces. Special, a very personal treasure. You've never heard of them and it's your loss.

Polak are born of the same aesthetic. Unsurprising, since head Bardots Simon Dunford and Krzys Fijalkowski are involved, but no less heart-bursting for that. Add in Krzys' brother, flamboyant Piotr of Adorable infamy, and it's a helluva line-up. Half a dozen pirouetting chords into the evening's entertainment and I've forgotten that obscure principle about hating guitar bands. There were moments, watching indie-cred stodge clogging up Top Of The Pops, when I prayed for this.

No throwback. Faced with a tricky home fixture, Polak risk their youth team. Of the six tracks committed to plastic, they play just one - and even that, the lovely scrawl of the second single, is already being toyed with mischievously. The rest is all unfamiliar, glimpses of the future and dreams of how head-over-heels that third Bardots LP would've sent me.

Tumultuous is a word. (So is "pretentious" - Ed.) It's not supposed to be this easy, soaring pop songs aren't supposed to be thrown away with quite such carelessness. If you play upstairs at the Richmond, you're not supposed to write songs that sound like "The Power Of Love" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood (or perhaps that was my imagination), you're not supposed to be quite so obviously impatient for glory. But this lot have paid their dues, done their apprenticeships, they don't need to have doubts.

So most of this is just a joyous, celebratory blur. Piotr peddles his dreams like they can't wait for tomorrow, amid all the exuberance of reformed failure junkies. A slight over-reliance on Big Finishes aside, they sound so f***ing glorious, so in love with pop and all its endless, brash, stupid, foolhardy possibilities.

God willing, Polak will make an album and the rest of 1999 will wince....

Falcon, Camden
27 March 1999

We arrive late, they've already started.

With any other band worth caring about, this would be a serious irritation. But this is Polak and Polak are a pop band, slamming you in the face with so many vital moments that there's nothing to think about but now, no reason to regret what's passed.

So I pile through the door into a crammed back room, three soon-to-be converts in tow. And it takes mere seconds for a crashing version of "Storm Coming" to sweep us right off our feet. No explanation necessary, no argument possible.

More follows, and it is magnificent. "I'm Sick" is absolutely ravishing; imminent single "Impossible" lifts the spirits like springtime; "Get Out Of My Sky" gets changed to refer back to the afternoon's football match ("That second goal was a handball / You English are CHEATS!"). They take their eyes off the ball occasionally, sometimes letting a little effort show through towards a mildly anti-climactic end, but that's always the way when you're four-nil up at half-time.

A pop band, ladies and gentlemen. The most uncomplicated, and elusive, of pleasures.