News at the '00'ze

by Herb Wright

London Correspondent

Not many indie musicians make the British tabloids, probably because they're usually such a miserable lot. The musicians and the bloids, that is. Two exceptions have been Norman Smith aka Fatboy Slim, cause he married Radio One dj and thin blonde heart-throb Zoë Ball, and Oasis. You know, Fatboy Slim is the grand master of Big Beat- he's still the hottest guy on the dance floor, but Big Beat, like Britpop, is now considered an uncool term (use of it can carry mandatory suspension from guest lists) and we now have to call it either Phat Beatz or (wait for it...) Disco Hop! The hot Beatz acts at the moment (i.e. dance acts with phat tunes that you can whistle) are Wiseguys, Deadly Avenger and Jadell. Well, at least that's the case while the Freestylers seem to be on a long lunch break.

Back to Oasis though. First there's the news that guitarist Bonehead & bassist Guigsy have left the band- shock horror! The press fret, is this end of this great British institution? But hold on- Bonehead & Guigsy have about as much musical talent as they have personality- i.e. bugger all. One quality paper described Oasis as, two idiot savants and 3 Ringos -- a bit unfair, Ringo was a top wit, a cool dresser and at one stage used to get more fan mail than John or even Paul! Anyway I'm backing the up-and-coming Midlands guitar lads Sub Tonic- their cunning plan is to infiltrate Oasis by filling the vacancies, then kidnap drummer Alan White and put their man in, and only then do they deal with the Gallagher bros...

Liam was back in the news when his wife Patsy Kensit gave birth to a boy called Lennon, who may be talking by the time the next Oasis album, already in the can, is out. Noel's recent collaboration with the Chemical Brothers was called 'Let Forever Be', a fine cut driven by a reproduction of Ring's 'Tomorrow Never Knows' drums.

Now it's often been said that far closer to the Beatles have been Oasis, old Britpop rivals Blur- with ability to reinvent themselves, risk, innovation etc. And Blur have been getting the media attention in the higher-brow press, celebrating 10 years of the band. Hell, I had to try 5 news agents in Kings Cross before I could find one who hadn't sold out of the recent Observer newspaper that had a free Blur cd glued to it. They mirror the UK indie decade...

And Blur have been getting the media attention in the higher-brow press, celebrating 10 years of the band. They mirror the UK indie decade...

Blur hit the 90s running with baggy hit 'There's No Other Way'. Their first album Leisure (91) is seeped with Manchester's baggy grooves. In 92 they sought alliance with mystical noise alchemists My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr on the legendary Roller coaster tour (and were a bit crap in comparison). In 93, as the tsunami of grunge crosses the Atlantic, Blur react to all the unwashed hair and noise by going mod and doing English pop tight-n-60s-like, on (hint hint) Modern Life Is Rubbish. Along with Suede they've declared independence from America. A year later they release 'Parklife', in which their increasingly confident Englishness has turned into cocky triumphant Britpop. Blurmania sweeps the country. In 95 they took on Oasis and won- Country House, with it's dodgy/saucy Damien Hirst-directed vid, beat Roll With It to no.1. Sadly, the year's album The Great Escape is their worst while Oasis deliver their best. It's a preview of the Britpop bubble bursting. So Blur go un-commercial, releasing their sort of White Album called Blur, all lo-fi and with the killer 'Song 2'. Which brings us to 99, and the latest album 13. Again introspective, occasionally brill, a bit all over the shop really, just like British indie music...

The only other guitar bands that can claim to reflect the whole 90s are the Manics, who've frankly become pompously corporate rock, and the Charlatans, who've moved to Universal, a corporate label. The Charlies were collaborating with the Chemicals long before Noel, by the way. New single Forever shows they've still got the groove and passion, while the album Us And Us Only indicates they're still on the Dylan trip that flavoured the last album Tellin' Stories. It still sounds great.

Another giant talent Supergrass are also playing a final hand at the decades end, with a lively new album called Supergrass- phew, they're not trying to sound 'mature'- and a gorgeous new single,' Moving'. What with Welsh bands Stereophonics, Super Furry Animals and Catatonia hitting the big time, it's enough to make you think that guitar bands are where it's at. But where are the new names? Gomez or The Beta Band? They're 'there' like people are 'there' at a stoner party that's gone on too long. I'd recommend lending an ear to moody yet alive Compaq Velocet or poppy Spearmint and Sea Fruit who both understand the words 'anthem' and 'intelligent' simultaneously, or Paddy Casey, who's Irish, gets pissed in Camden and writes songs like Dylan did in 66. I wouldn't bet more than a genetically modified lunch on them getting big, though.

The trip-hop Bristol sound has coloured the UK's 90s almost as much as Britpop, but now Andrew 'Mushroom' Vowles has quit and killed Massive Attack, it's history. The music biz fixers awarded the Mercury Music Prize this year to Talvin Singh, which is all about being PC and honouring Asian underground sounds. Not that his vibes aren't well cool and chillin' - check it out! Less chill more beatz are the fantastic Joi but one of the two East End Asian brothers died recently, so that's that.

Here's the truth about the UK scene in 99- something even bigger than Fatboy Slim. It's a Spanish island called Ibiza and after all these years there's more people than ever 'largin' it' 24h/day to a sort of music that needs a drug to switch off any critical faculties you may have. It wears many names, but it's really called... House. Arrgghhh!

And get a load of this - a European rover called Beagle 2 is going to play a special Blur song to Earth from Mars in 2003. And you Americans were putting John Denver in orbit- hahaha!

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