LONDON REPORT - April 98

by Herb Wright
TransAction's London Correspondent

Musial trends, like the weather in England, have been unpredictable long before El Niño, global warming and takeaway curries. Amazingly, American music is back in˝and big. Beck's been cool for ages, the Lilys' Nanny In Manhattan was well groovy but the biggest sensation so far this year has been the Dandy Warhols from Portland Oregon! Rolling Stone Mag described the Warhols as Stone Roses meets Sonic Youth but I reckon it's more to do with the Velvet Underground and even the Electric Prunes. The influence is 60s and there's something Beggars Banquet about the new album sleeve.

Photo of Courtney and Peter by Bradley Dicharry .
Courtesy of The Official Dandy Warhols Web Page .

The droney, lugubrious feel of the Warhols when they're not on a mood high is something shared by much of the insidious prog-rock revival. London's The Montrose Avenue is the best 60s-influenced band so far.(Imagine the Byrds on speed!) Yesterday's flavours, Radiohead & The Verve were getting very serious, but acts like the over-hyped and overweight Ultrasound are replacing emotion with pretension like the original early 70s pseuds (Yes or ELP say) the music sounds like an epic journey to nowhere, or at least up the singer/guitarist's arse. Food Records' proggy Swedish signing, Soundtrack Of Our Lives, is another example. Yes, the threat of endless guitar solo is back. Good timing then for Plant & Page to return (literally from the dead, judging by Plant's appearance these days), although the new stuff is quite lovely and Kashmir-flavoured. My tip is Nottingham's Six by Seven. Candlelight is the most awesome psychedelic guitar/Hammond rock so far this year.

Yesterday's flavoursˇRadiohead & The Verveˇwere getting very serious, but acts like the over-hyped and overweight Ultrasound are replacing emotion with pretension like the original early 70s pseuds (Yes or ELP say) the music sounds like an epic journey to nowhere, or at least up the singer/guitarist's arse.


Talking about that sort of thing, psychedelic hippy rockers Kula Shaker are back with a far-out groovy single, The Sound Of Drums. Bearing in mind Crispian Mills' idiot endorsement of the swastika...it's an ancient Hindu thing, man˝they were soooo careful to avoid any fascist references in the artwork, lyrics etc. The release date? Hitler's birthday! If only they'd put some laughter on the end of the song, just like his hero George did on Within You Without You.


And talking about things Indian (yes how this all flows, just like a good dj's set!) indie club song of the year so far has to be Anglo-Asian outfit Cornershop's Brimful Of Asha, off their superb debut album When I Was Born For The 7th Time. Actually the song's been around so long, when I started playing it last year I thought I was reviving it! Like Beck, the influences come from all over the shop, it doesn't sound like anyone else and it's dance-cred and indie-cred. Interestingly, singer Tjinder Singh has stopped slagging off Oasis since Cornershop have been supporting them in the US. Everyone else in the UK, however, continue to slag off Oasis.


Pulp have gone a bit serious on new album This Is Hardcore (doomy but delicious title track about porn stars or something reminds me of Duran Duran's only decent song Skin Trade). They're less parochial and have more depth now, so doubtless the US marketing will soon gear up on this. Was it Blur who started this trend to come back reborn all serious like (or was it the White Album all those years ago?)


Not many people were surprised when ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler's solo album People Move On turned out to be a brilliant swirl of emotion and strings, but a lot of us were when ex-Roses frontman Ian Brown's solo album Unfinished Monkey Business also turned out superb. He couldn't even sing in tune when the Roses played Reading 2 years ago, now he's created some of the coolest, mellow-funkiest vibes an indie ear is likely to hear.


Sorry to leave female-fronted bands to the end. Garbage are back and I've just realized that their faultless pop-dance crossover is uncannily parallel to the 80s Eurythmics. Bear with me...a quirky Scottish redhead who knows how to sing and some old blokes (well just one in the Eurythmics case) making a leftfield sound and plenty rhythm hiding behind her? Cool and classy newcomers worth watching are lounge-pop outfit The Audience, and tip from nowhere is hot plug-in-the-amps guitar-popsters Boom Boom Mancini.


Finally, Catatonia's front woman Cerys (she's Welsh and has the sexiest voice since Marilyn Monroe) was recently declared Queen of Pop by a national newspaper. The album International Velvet is a class job; brash pub-band meets soul-wrenching diva sort of thing. I only tell you this because I predicted it in TransAction over a year ago! Yes, we have the 'balls' to call em as we see em. In fact, they're crystal!

Farewell, then, until next report.

Shirley Manson of Garbage


Shirley Manson Worshipers' Page

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