The Slingbacks: drive-by pop thrillers
From l9th century dandy poets to 20th century boy grunge superstars. the male manyr's Alma Mater makes for a long and depressing rock 'n‘ roll call. Live fast and pop your blue suede clogs before middle age steals away those looks and your dignity absconds with the rnilkrnan. Suicide. car crash, freak golﬁng accident. Take your pick.
‘I have a problem with this dumb self- destruction myth that your rock ‘n‘ roller isn‘t real unless he blows up live on stage,‘ says Shireen — singer- guitarist with the Slingbacks — who. although a huge Johnny Thunders fan. eschews all that James Dean schtick.
‘ I990 through I992, everybody started going belly-up on me. Hollywood was a big heroin town at the time.‘ She recalls meeting Thunders backstage some years earlier. ﬁnding him ‘sitting in a comer looking totally wretched, going “ah, heroin, man. fountain of youth." Then he looks at me and says “Hell on chicks though!" ‘
Leaving LA behind for Arizona and then San Francisco, Shireen chanced upon her spiritual home eighteen months ago in, of all places. Liverpool. She formed Ms 45 with limey soul mates Gavin and Mandi but quickly jettisoned the trigger-happy moniker. ‘No one over here could get their head round Ms 45 . . . gun culture isn’t what it is in the States. It was Abel Ferrara’s ﬁrst ﬁltn, a schlocky B-movie.‘
Having voluntarily handed their six- shooters over to the authorities. The Slingbacks were keen not to be stuck in ‘that girl band ghetto'. Says Shireen: ‘I get sick of being compared to other female artists . . . I would prefer to be seen in the continual history of rock ’n‘ roll, not just people saying we sound like Belly or The Bangles. What about The Buzzcocks or The Beach Boys?‘ B-boys all. ‘Trashy, broken pop is usually my three word drive-by description.’
Like another of her favourite bands, Cheap Trick. Shireen sees The Slingbacks as ‘loud, bratty, power pop but with a lot of craft to it . . . music that you love when you're ﬁfteen and drinking beer and jumping between the fumiture trying not to touch the floor. All hail the three-minute pop song!’ (Rodger Evans)
The Slingbacks play The Venue. Edinburgh. Mon 30 Sept; The Cathouse, Glasgow. Tue 1 Oct. ‘All Pop. N0 Star'. The Slingback ’s debut is released Mon 14 Oct.
The shape they’re in
Crazy name, canny guys. Frente, newly catapulted irom the Melbourne pub scene to the international market by their million-seller Marvin, are continuing the Antipodean tradition oi intelligent, approachable pop. Their new album, Shape, trailed by the disanningly good single ‘What’s Come Over Me’, is an example oi what happens when a band iorget what they’re supposed to sound like and just get on with writing and recording the best songs they possibly can. The presence oi producers Dave Allen (The Cure) and Cameron McVey (lieneh Cherry), and the iree-ior-all songwriting credits, have made it a reireshingly non-generic experience.
‘It was something we needed to do,’ declares singer Angie llart, down the line irom Kalamazoo (really),
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Frente irenzy coming soon
‘otherwise we couldn’t have gone much iurther. We really needed to do something iresh ior ourselves. We ielt really stagnant. I went away and wrote a couple oi songs with Cameron and everything opened up and we started writing a whole load oi songs after that.’
She maintains that the best Frente songs are iuelled by tension. no they ever take any oi it onstage with them? ‘Well, it we’re having a light we do! Yeah, you’d be able to tell. We’re not a very slick band. It’s either a really positive periormance or you’ll be able to tell it something else is happening. Mostly, Simon [Austin, co-wrlter] and l have come to terms with the tact that that’s the way we work.’
And can Angie see the seeds oi the band’s destruction in that? lot as such, apparently.
‘I’ve noticed over the years that all the songs that we’re really proud oi are songs where we’ve had really big lights while we were writing them. It seems to be something we need to do.’ (Alastair Mabbott)
Frente play lling Tut’s, Glasgow on Fri 20.
ramm— Frankenstein’s dream
One at Scotland’s top composing talents has joined iorces with one oi the country’s top literary iigures tor the third in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s series of Glasgow conunissions, to be premiered in Glasgow. Composer Sally Bearnlsh and writer Janice Galloway’s cross-media collaboration takes its inspiration irom the lite oi Mary Shelley, author oi Frankenstein, and is appropriately enough called Monster. it is, according to Galloway, ‘a “waking dream” oi music and words: an impressionistic telling oi the early llie oi Mary Shelley and, simultaneously, an attempt to re-examlne some oi the 'lmages and themes oi one oi the greatest, yet most taken ior granted, works oi genius in Western Iiterature.’ Falling in love with the twenty-year- old radical poet Percy Shelley and being pregnant at aged seventeen (he was already married, his wiie expecting their second child), led to eloperaent to Europe along with Mary’s step-sister Claire. Pennlless, they had to return home, Mary’s baby being born prematurely and dying at
only six weeks old. Then to Geneva, to Lord Byron’s mansion (Claire was now pregnant by him) and late nights talking about poetry and lite and Byron’s idea oi them all writing a ghost story.
On her approach, Sally Beamish says, ‘On ilrst discussing the narrative with Janice, I was struck by the stark loneliness oi Mary’s early Iiie - something I have echoed in my score. Then, not only that loneliness but Mary’s evocation oi the human craving ior power over creation and the will, born oi hopeless griei, to bring the dead back to Ilie, hit me iorceiully. It is these elements more than any other which shape the music, making this work, irom my perspective, perhaps the most disturbing l have yet undertaken.’ (Carol Main)
800, City Ilall, Glasgow, Wed 2; aueen's llall, Edinburgh Thurs 3.
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Sally Bearnlsh In a pastoral setting
Im— sram DAN
Steely Dan: Walter Becker (leit) and Donald Fagen
SliCC. Glasgow [3301)].
Close on the heels of the thought ‘you don't get much music like this any more‘ comes the realisation that even in the fusion-drenched, axe-noodling 70s you had to come to the Dan for anything quite like this bizarre brew of arch lyricism, sparkling tunes and staggering musicianship. There was a time. of course, long before Steely Dan were a twinkle in Becker and Fagen‘s eyes. that it wasn‘t so unusual to see jazz. musicians earning their crusts playing pop music, but such a full-scale jazzbo inferno. in l996, is almost perverse.
But no more so than Messrs Becker and Fagen themselves. The professorial Walter Becker could pass as almost angelic if his dry betwen-song remarks didn't hint at the terrible darkness beneath. Fagen. though,just lets it all hang out. Unshaven. hidden behind wraparound shades, wearing a slept-in suit and hunched over a portable keyboard, he cuts the seediest ﬁgure seen on a Scottish stage for many a moon. He even insists on namechecking the soloists. It‘s like a big single-digit salute to a world that doesn’t allow this sort of thing any longer.
What‘s surprising is how much the thousands gathered here appear to be digging it. But the Dan are generous with the hits: the woodwork squeaks and out come ‘Do It Again', ‘Rikki Don‘t Lose That Number'. a strangely de-fanged ‘Reeling In The Years'. ‘Josie‘. with its brilliant intro. and ‘Deacon Blues‘. a song particularly relevant to the Glasgow setting. And youhote that the band's relentlessly rnuso background may be responsible fora tendency to noodle, but it also means that, boy. they can swing.
Man ofthe night is saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus, whose name inspires as much gaping admiration among the crowd as his playing. But aren‘t guys who play this son of stuff supposed to wear sharp suits or something? (Alastair Mabbott)
Who Saw You?
See page 89.
The List 20 Sept-3 Oct I996 33