When RNDM announced Line & Circle as their touring partner it seemed an odd choice. While one is a traditional rock/power pop outfit, the other trades in layered, emotional indie tunes. It was hard to see how the two could sit side by side.

In fact the two bands have a lot in common. Both formed in the last twelve months, and both have already enjoyed an uncharacteristically speedy ascension into the public arena. Oh, and they both love effects pedals. Tonight the stage at Seattle’s Showbox at the Market looks like a guitar thrift store.

It’s there that the similarity ends. Line & Circle open with an energetic 45-minute set that blows away the winter blues with a dose of California sun. The venue is still disappointingly empty as the crowd trickles in from the cold, but everyone within earshot sits up and takes notice as soon as Line & Circle take to the stage. Their sound owes more to early R.E.M. than their contemporaries – with a nod to British bands the Stone Roses and The Smiths – but that doesn’t keep them from sounding refreshingly unique. There’s an obvious chemistry at work between these young musicians, and their stage presence keeps even the hardcore rockers entranced. A guest guitar appearance by RNDM’s Joseph Arthur gives their set some variety and texture, while their one hit to date, ‘Roman Ruins‘, provides an upbeat highlight. This is clearly an act to watch over the coming months.

RNDM finally take to stage in their neon orange costumes, and it’s soon apparent that they come from an entirely different place. Joseph Arthur, Jeff Ament and Richard Stuverud are all seasoned musicians, with a heap of musical credits under their belts. It shows. Their set is tighter and slicker than Line & Circle’s, but even the gathered Ament faithful seem unable to summon much enthusiasm as they rock and stomp their way through tracks from their debut album. As skilled as they are, RNDM seem to be lacking the vital spark that marks all truly great rock songs, and you can’t help feeling that they might have spent a little less time on their stage outfits, and a little more on the songs. At their best they sound like a stripped-back Queens of the Stone Age, but too often they rely on muscled-up, bombastic reworkings of rock’n’roll staples. They’re not exactly bad – just rather obvious. And for a band called RNDM that has to be a failing.

Sometimes youthful energy and an organic chemistry are more important than years of stage experience. RNDM provide the biggest, loudest show of the night, but Line & Circle are more vibrant, more innovative – and, ultimately, more interesting. Our money’s on the underdog.

Culture Review: RNDM and Line & Circle Shine at the Showbox