Music Review: Life after Britpop

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The Independent Culture
BERNARD BUTLER, SUNHOUSE, MOJAVE 3 SHEPHERD'S BUSH EMPIRE

LONDON

WEDNESDAY'S GIG went ahead even though the headliner had to pull out of the previous night's performance because of a sore throat. Butler's problems showed in the first couple of numbers - disappointing pub-rock workouts with extravagant guitar snatches - but he soon settled down into more melodic pop tunes.

The first electric album and tour by the ex-Suede guitarist and McAlmont collaborator hasn't exactly taken the country by storm, but he bounced around with enthusiasm and still managed to pull in a sizeable portion of Suede devotees.

However, this night wasn't about that kind of glam wailing and posturing, as Butler has shifted his attention to a sound that gives a nod to dreamy American rock. For this tour he hand-picked the support acts to produce a musical package that's a long, long way from Britpop.

The main support act, Nottingham's Sunhouse, came on stage blasting into "Monkey Dead" and "Bad Crowd" - songs with a bluesy undercurrent that rip into heavy, rootsy guitar blasts. In contrast "Hurricane" and "Hard Sun" slowed the mood down and gave the charismatic, corkscrew-haired Gavin Clarke an opportunity to display his vocal range. They lost momentum by jamming through the doomy harmonica-driven jazz of "Fallen Flower", but overall their performance did much to enhance their growing word-of-mouth reputation.

A significant number of early birds congregated at the front of the stage for the night's opening act, Mojave 3, who come from London rather than the Californian desert and in fact number five. The interest displayed in the band is not surprising given the delivery of the gorgeous Out of Tune album, their second for 4AD. As they shuffled on stage they looked nervous, probably wondering whether their woozily intimate, country-tinged pop could fill a venue of this size. "All Your Tears" was a low-key opener but a warm, fuzzy organ sounded the intro to the catchy "Who Do You Love", which was followed by the even better "Give What You Take".

Both songs were strongly reminiscent of Buffalo Springfield and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere-era Neil Young, and the rustic sideburns sported by Neil Halstead seemed an appropriate homage. "Some Kind of Angel", the penultimate number in their six-song set, saw them achieve the fullest sound. If Mojave 3 are to be playing venues of this size (and if there's any justice, they should be soon), they'll have to play it more like this.

In all it was a good showcase of what should be a significant mood swing in British rock.

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