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Oxegen 09 - That Petrol Emotion

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ATL | 17:17 UK time, Sunday, 12 July 2009

Heineken Stage, Saturday 12th July, 4.00pm

Describe in a Tweet: Two car garage band.

What happened: One of the great 'lost' Northern Irish bands, That Petrol Emotion emerged out of the ashes of the Undertones, fusing a heady political brew to their garage rock swagger. However, as is the case with many things, they never really lived up to their initial promise, finally imploding in 1995. However, one thing old punks rarely do is lie still for too long, and this summer finds them back on the reunion circuit. 

The first thing that strikes you about them is how overlooked Damien O'Neil is as a guitarist. He churns out power chords and solos with a bizarre 'relaxed urgency' - it's like he could erupt with the most mind melting riff at any point if he wanted to, but he'd do it with a smile on his face. Between him and co-guitarist Raymond Gorman, the band has quite an impressive line-up of six-string manglers. 

But it all falls to frontman Steve Mack to hold it together, his distinctly 'old school' style of performing finding him careering around the stage, making all manner of stadium rock moves. It doesn't always work, but he does cut an impressive figure, emoting to the crowd like a less pudgy Jim Kerr of Simple Minds.

However, the real problem with their set seems to lie in the schism at the very heart of the band. It appears that on the one hand, they aspire to be the massive, stadium sized band they once seemed destined to evolve into, all sweeping U2 gestures and BIG statements. But on the other hand, they are a superb grungy, garage rock band, not unlike Screaming Trees when they first started. Songs like 'Big Decision' and 'It's a Good Thing' have that raw, churning intensity, the sound of the candle being burned at both ends. But 'Last of the True believers' cries out for a proper 'arms in the air' style welcome.

Either way, they are well received, and for a few moments, you find yourself wondering what could have been.

This is a high: 'Big Decision' really sounds like the massive pop hit it should have been, but never was. Also, a surprisingly young crowd. Which obviously had nothing to do with the fact that Friendly Fires were on afterward. Nothing at all... 

This is a low: When an overjoyed reveller is invited on stage to run about and shake his belly, before being shooed off the stage.

Oxegen rating: 6/10

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