It comes as little surprise that Richie Murphy, bellwether of refined Dublin pop trio Michael Knight is irked by constant comparisons to Belle & Sebastian. While there are certainly worse bands to resemble - Bon Jovi, Oasis, Snow Patrol, Journey, Wet Wet Wet, for example - no musician really wants to hear who they're supposedly ripping off. Besides, while MK certainly have the charmingly twee melodies and bashful vocals down pat, there's an occasional macabre current running through both their delicious debut album, Youth Is Wasted On The Young and their concise live set - something that fans of both Neil Hannon and Stephen Merritt may appreciate. Essentially Murphy on keyboards/guitar/songwriting duties with two kooky 'n' kool female singers providing incidental pitch-perfect harmonies, Michael Knight are playing tonight at the plush Sugar Club, a venue usually reserved for cabaret acts and singer-songwriters. In other words, the perfect domain for a largely piano-based indie-pop band.
Murphy's droll exterior and deadpan expressions are in stark contrast to the warm, classic pop he peddles; but providing comic relief of-sorts are the Marigold-and-pinny-clad Miriam Ingram and erstwhile collaborator Oh Decima (possibly not her real name). Taking his place at the keyboard and vowing to not waste any precious time with idle chit-chat, he churns out one well-crafted, classic pop gem after another; album tracks Leaving Town, Youth Is Wasted On The Young and the gorgeous i>Waves To The Shore are sumptuous summer outings, all sunny harmonies and bittersweet lyrics; but new track Coronation Street is a dark, menacing affair, perhaps indicative of a new direction. There is scant opportunity for wisecracks and banter, but even so, Murphy's dry wit is evident lyrically if not publicly, with winsome duet Victory Is Mine imparting the line: 'Ooh, lets spend a week in Torquay, that would be a nice break/Or we could save up for a conservatory'.
Unfortunately, the half-hour set is both too short and too sparsely-attended, even for a four-band showcase on a Friday night. Why Michael Knight aren't already huge
is both baffling and beguiling; but there lies a persisting talent for songwriting within; sooner or later these songs will be discovered and consequently as eulogised as that hairy buffoon and his silly talking car are. I may as well say it in advance, then; I told you so.