Arts: POP: Swedish prog rock: the soundtrack of all our lives

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The Independent Culture
WITH THEIR farcical hybrid of blues, country and punk, Ten Benson comprise the kind of smart humour that the music industry is conspicuously starved of at present. Word has it that they are not yet signed, though they have already found their way on to one of Radio 1's Evening Sessions and have even managed to pack out one of London's stickier venues on a Monday night. Dressed in baseball caps and dickie-bows as if about to serve up a Big Mac and fries, they brim with sardonic irreverence. Their android vocals, deadpan faces and automated gestures make you feel as if you have stumbled upon some eerie Lynchian apparition. It is a simply constructed and rather disarming formula designed to make you think that they act like this all the time. Mulder and Scully would have a field day.

They certainly provide a bizarre contrast to the combustible, guitar- driven, pseudo-psychedelic Swedish act Soundtrack Of Our Lives. I would have gladly given up my enviable position under the air-conditioning to find out what the two band's backstage small talk consisted of.

This hulking six-man band from Gothenburg are every inch a "rock" band - all flouncy hair, eyeliner and tight trousers. Advocates of epic guitar solos, lofty lyrics and irrepressible posturing, Soundtrack are single- handedly trying to bring about a Seventies prog revival. And I'm sure Emerson, Lake and Palmer didn't have nearly as much fun.

Rumours prevailed after Soundtrack's support slot with Kula Shaker last year that Paul Winterhart, Kula Shaker's drummer felt compelled to ask Soundtrack's drummer for lessons. Sure enough, Winterhart is lurking at the back of the gig, banging his head with the best of them.

Dressed in floor-length robes, vocalist Ebbert Lundberg materialises from a cloud of dry ice like a giant, beer-bellied seraph, arms aloft in mock adulation, as he launches into the bizarrely titled "Chromosome Layer". The rest of the band are similarly ostentatious although absurdly incongruous. An archetypal Soho pin-up complete with Action Man grin, Martin Hederos entices a gaggle of glowing girls and cavorting boys in front of his keyboard while guitarist Ian Perrson's trailing blond tresses and black fingernails draw an assemblage of shaggy headbangers. Mattias Barjed is a dead ringer for Take That's Mark Owen (though in possession of considerably more verve) and his performance culminates in true rock- god style when he plays his guitar with his backside.

London crowds are notoriously difficult to please and this lot were clearly disconcerted by the ribald band of Swedes, but by the encore they were baying for more. Soundtrack's brand of psychedelic rock may sound dated at times, but they must be congratulated for the sheer effrontery of their performance.

Fiona Sturges