by Herb Wright
TransAction's London Correspondent

Just about the most exciting no. 1 single in the UK in 99 so far has been FLAT ERIC. He's a hand glove puppet who wears shades and checks documents a stunning secretary presents him at his big desk in a wacky office that 's filled with an almost moronically lo-fi synthesized computer tune called Flatbeat . Flat Eric grooves to his beat and he 's so cool it doesn 't seem at all dodgy when he offers her a cigar.

The bad news for the UK, alleged world centre of what's hip and what's not, is that Flat Eric is really a French guy called Mr. Ozio. Oh woe, what happened to our music, food of love and also of having it large- have we had an excess of't, and so surfeited, the appetite is sickened and may die? Look you, where are the divers schedules of England's musical beauty? When we hear in March that the only UK song in the US top 100 is the SPICE GIRLS at no. 98, we must ask ourselves, have we lost the plot?

When we hear in March that the only UK song in the US top 100 is the SPICE GIRLS at no. 98, we mustASK ourselves, have we lost the plot?

Well, what's really occurring? In my January article, I declared that guitar bands were dead. As if to defy me, there's been a brace of killer singles from established guitar bands hitting the airwaves and dance floors, and hints that a new generation of bands are rediscovering the word 'pop'.

Top of the list is Britpop pioneers SUEDE, of whom history books may yet write, 'they put the darkness of goth into glam and saved the UK leather jacket and mascara trades '. There 's a new album called Head Music and lead single Electricity is fantastically meaty and electric. If you catch the vid by the way it 's shot in Falconberg Court, a shady alley behind the Astoria- move over Morning Glory Berwick St for prime London rock 'n 'roll backdrop. Back to the album tho- Suede can meander on about drugs and being thin and that but gosh this album is alive! My personal fave killer cut is She 's in Fashion. Suede did a secret gig this month in Northolt- famous for having an airfield used in the Berlin Airlift and also being so far out on the Central Line that men grow beards by the time they've reached Oxford Circus. The gig was a blinder and BRETT ANDERSON can afford a laugh about Noel & Liam or Damon cause he proved he's still well alive and the jury's out with the other 2 Britpop megabands.

Damon? That's DAMON ALBARN of BLUR. Their new album 13 is allegedly a new incarnation of the band in which Damon actually bares his soul instead of being clever. Well, okay, but it does rather sound like the last album i.e. mucho lo-fi doodling. Lead single Tender sounded like Give Peace A Chance with a gospel choir. And I reckoned they 've buggered their new Song 2 which is called Bugman by putting raw noise bang in the middle- lots of it, it 's not pretty.

Back to those killer singles. SUPERGRASS preface a new album with Pumping On Your Stereo which is an irresistible infectious glammy foot-tapper. And you could swear they're singing 'humping on your stereo'. CAST, much mocked for exemplifying 'Dadrock', the mediocre 60 's copyist genre that followed in the wake of Oasis, have pulled off another storming foot-tapper called Beat Mama , where guitars shine like the early 90 's Liverpudlian legends The LA's- frontman John Power used to be in the La's, so fair play. Talking of 60 's copyists, KULA SHAKER's hot new single is called Shower Your Love and it sounds rather like Baby You're A Richman . Their new album Pigs Peasants and Astronauts is a jolly jaunt through R 'n 'B, Led Zeppy power guitar, Hammond pop and Indian sounds, and actually it 's quite fab. Also worth mentioning is THE FALL, really a cantancurous old Mancunian called MARK E SMITH whose servants- I mean band- have been hired then fired since the 80 's. New single Touch Sensitive is shouty, groovy and catchy all at the same time- gosh, just when we all thought The Fall had moved from past-sell-by-date to biological hazard status.

GAY DAD, centred around ex-music journos led by COBAIN-looks CLIFF JONES broke with a big pop tune called To The Earth With Love and new single Joy looks like another winner- with their big-space guitars they remind me of MANSUN before they lost the plot. Ex-music journos are the best when it comes to success via music biz manipulation and formula- it 's an English tradition the PET SHOP BOYS started.

Middle England- basically spotty blokes who like lager and football (='soccer') and used to love Oasis- have gone big on the STEREOPHONICS who are from Wales and now play stadiums. It 's all a bit trad, but it has to be admitted the tunes are big and bright and singer KELLY JONES has the grittiest voice since ROD STEWART. As for OASIS themselves well they 're recording in France and we await the results with an eagerness generally reserved for the next gas bill.

Commercially, it's Britrock rather than Britpop that's winning. Bands like 3 COLOURS RED and TERRORVISION and REEF are MTV friendly and it 's all gone a bit BRYAN ADAMS. That can 't be said for some of the breaking bands in the genre- ANNIE CHRISTIAN are heavy and have tunes while bands like RADIATOR are intense, don 't care if some members are slapheads (='bald'), and if you had them over for breakfast they 'd probably scatter the cornflakes everywhere, they are that hard.

Don 't be fooled by the ULTRASOUND hype- as I predicted, this hot band fronted by monstrously big TINY are indeed turning into 70 's prog-rock bollocks. (Note- bollocks means 'v. good ' if prefaced with 'the ' and 'v. bad ' if not).

New names? ARTURO are worth keeping an eye on- a 3-piece rock combo with groove and a passing debt to the bendy big guitar wails of MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Then there's LISAHALL, a 4-piece fronted by, yes, LISA HALL, they have the big sound of say GARBAGE with an underlying taste of trip-hop- wow!

Sensitive types- y 'know, liable to own SMITHS records- follow extended Glasgow band BELLE & SEBASTIAN these-a-days. B&S are unleashing spin-off projects like THE GENTLE WAVES (so gentle it makes NICK DRAKE sound like a mugger in comparison) and curiously bleepy LOOPER, and they organized their very own April festival called 'The Bowlie Weekender'. 3000 people rolled up at a Pontins resort- usually the sort of place where old folk sit on deck chairs with handkerchieves tied on their heads. (Well, it makes a change from corporate festivals run by Virgin or the ubiquitous Mean Fiddler Organization.) International names like CORNELIUS and MERCURY REV played alongside top campy popsters the DIVINE COMEDY, Glaswegian noise alchemists MOGWAI and people like JARVIS COCKER dj'ing. Apparently a highlight was some American outfit called LADY BUG TRANSISTOR, who come across 60 's psychedelic but use 90 's technology. Good job the weather was good- sensitive types can get so moody when it rains!

Between Looper and Flat Eric and also BIS coming back all disco like, you 'd think there was a cheap drum machine/synth revival going on. The press seem to think so but they 're backing ADD N TO (X), who are 3 experimental art student types who like messing with recycled electronic boxes. Could this be the sound of the Ooze? (That 's the next decade, so-called because the years have two 0 's). I 'm not convinced, but the artwork/video which involves a woman doing 69 with a robot is cool.

The 60 's are old hat and we 're riding the white swan of a glamrock & kitsch revival- BOLAN is the new LENNON and ABBA the new BEATLES. It's hard to get kitschier than YOUNGER YOUNGER 28S, who are a sad combo fronted by a spivvy jerk with an 80's-expressionless keyboards dude and 2 un-co-ordinated backing vocals girls. These frankly rubbish yet admittedly catchy 2nd-rate HUMAN LEAGUE copyists will be hyped to death this month...

Oh, and there's a Baggy revival, what with the HAPPY MONDAYS reforming for a grab-the-cash tour. Baggy was the early 90 's music that put a laid-back, dancey groove into guitar bands and spawned the word 'Madchester'. However pleasant, glam/kitsch and baggy are passing fads.

There 's word that folk could be the new rock. Others say salsa will hit the groove. I think it's still too early to make Ooze predictions. The most exciting music around is still FATBOY SLIM, and there's a big clue for the future in his stuff. He's basically Europe's top DJ, inventor of Big Beat, the Midas of the mixing desk and- here's the clue- he draws from disparate music genres from black street culture to piano soul to house garage etc. to make phat-sounding massive-as-a-planet dance floor winners. The UK's most influential innovators of the 90 's MASSIVE ATTACK drew from disparate genres- trip-hop, guitar rock, rap etc. The greatest band of all time the BEATLES drew from madly disparate genres. That's the future: take a sad song and make it better- take some old ideas and make a new, better idea.

So- UK pop music- the bollocks or just bollocks? We're so mixed up- and maybe that's our greatest asset for the challenges of the Ooze!

More UK News from Minxy