The Pipettes - Manchester Academy 2

The polka-dot pop protagonists are back. The Pipettes live experience is a heady rush. RiotBecki, Gwenno and Rosay, the trio with brio, lit up last summer with their cocktail of 50s-influenced girl group pop and indie savvy. The debut album 'We are the Pipettes' , trailed by timeless single 'Pull Shapes', was a far more captivating extravaganza than the initial novelty value might have led you to expect.

Tonight they stride on, ever-slick backing band The Cassettes laying down a few bars of introduction, to screams, no less. Opener 'Don't Forget Me' is new and absolutely glorious, up there with their their shiniest two or three moments. A cracking start and the set sets off at pace, intros to old classics (!) receiving cheers.

Further proof that Indie Pop = (Indie Rock x 2), the Pipettes play a storming set of old and new, the apparent off-hand simplicity of which belies the craft, soul and brains within. A partisan crowd laps it up. The venue - an increasingly bleak old box, sadly a last-minute switch from original, and ideal, venue, The Ritz - is not as full as it was last September, but they were promoting the album back then and 'Pull Shapes' was all over radio. So the place is alive but not quite sweatpit central this time. One wag delivers a tuneful "These Happy Days are yours and mine !" during a lull and gets deserved recognition. The audience is mostly female so bang goes that one about the girls only attracting geeky gawping nerds ... though, it must be said - no, I won't. And I'll leave it to others to dig out a proto-feminist subtext but lyrical slant continues to be : 'Why did you leave me and make me cry ? Oh hell, pass the wine. Oh, and men are all pathetic bastards.” Smart. It’s Victoria Wood via The Shrangi-las.

They play just about all of the debut and four or five newies. That second album is going to be indispensable on this evidence. They say goodbye with a floor-shaking 'Pull Shapes' and return for a scintillating double-whammy of 'ABC' and their daft but rousing title track. It seems almost wasteful that The Pipettes aren't massive by now. I can live with, oh I don't know ... Explosions in the Sky playing to crowds like this, but this lot are bending over for you, you dolts ! Even when one factors in that for a huge swathe of their potential audience (indie drones doing Media Studies with Zoology at Haverfordwest University) they are simply a bit too 'gay', the lack of world domination is disappointing. Such is the brown and grey backdrop of the current British alternative music scene : a dash of colour and sparkle is just that bit too bright for comfort, nudges you away from the herd. Shame on you for that. For those of us who love music in all its possible shapes and flavours, The Pipettes are peddling piquant, pristine pop. Their live show marries wit and ribald pop japery with effortless musical savvy. I smile throughout. You don't deserve them.

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