Arts: A high octane blast of Rocket 'n' roll

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The Independent Culture
SWEATY, OVER-CROWDED, poorly ventilated - in many ways the Garage was the perfect venue to witness Rocket From The Crypt's high-octane onslaught. With the energy of Red Bull junkies and the commitment of stuntmen, this San Diego sextet was a pleasingly stark contrast to the limp-as-lettuce Britpop of Shed Seven and Embrace.

Our compere informed us that he'd been training RFTC in "tiger-slaying rock 'n' roll" for the last five years, and that they were now in peak condition. "Are you ready?" he asked, after throwing a few a few kung fu shapes. We were.

All quiffs, sideburns and tattoos, The Crypt took the stage in matching silk shirts, guitarist ND's look informed more by Elvez than Elvis. When they launched into "Do The Jerk", the intensity of their performance was immediately gripping. Here, one realised, was a band connecting with the genuine spirit of Jerry Lee and Little Richard, rather than peddling some bland, AOR-soiled anachronism. If rock 'n' roll is dying, we want this lot staffing the E R.

RFTC might be summed up as Happy Days meets The Clash meets Kiss - a 50's throwback gang-band whose tongue-in-cheek approach includes choreographed guitar poses and - in larger venues - flash-pot explosions. What this doesn't make clear, however, is the band's tremendous work ethic. Frontman Speedo has said that, back home, they rehearse eight to ten hours a day, six days a week. It's a claim that the band's extraordinary tightness supports. At times they function like a single being, the different instruments like organs in the same body, roles and goals clearly defined.

Highlights included `"Break It Up" and "Lipstick". The former kicked- in like the Beatles' "Revolution", then fell back on a big, dumb glam- rock riff. Before "Lipstick", Speedo's advice for the audience's female contingent was "Back away from the rouge ladies, hold it on the mascara". He was less prepared to fraternise with a stage-diver who chose this song to make his entry, hauling him off-stage by the hair. Just a little bit of rough and tumble, you understand.

The only disappointment came when Holly Golightly of The Headcoatees duetted with Speedo on "Eye On You". The collaboration works well on the band's eponymous new album, but live, Holly's vocal was lost in the wall of sound. Crypt-kicking stuff, though, all the same. Catch them at Reading if you possibly can.

James McNair