How to milk Blondie for all they're worth

Moloko | Concorde 2, Brighton
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The Independent Culture

Since they first emerged in 1995, Moloko (which means milk in Russian) have suffered at the hands of the media. All too often they are written off as members of the dreaded trip hop fraternity who need remixes to have a hit single. The reality, however, is very different. Over the years they have brought a flourish of pop pizzazz to the terminal greyness of trip hop. They have long enjoyed the party while all around were hung up on fashion ideals. And they seem to derive an almost perverse pleasure from the situation.

Since they first emerged in 1995, Moloko (which means milk in Russian) have suffered at the hands of the media. All too often they are written off as members of the dreaded trip hop fraternity who need remixes to have a hit single. The reality, however, is very different. Over the years they have brought a flourish of pop pizzazz to the terminal greyness of trip hop. They have long enjoyed the party while all around were hung up on fashion ideals. And they seem to derive an almost perverse pleasure from the situation.

The recent release of Moloko's third album Things to Make and Do only adds to this wayward image. The techno-trance anthem "Sing It Back" was Moloko's first real hit and even the most principled band may have been tempted to stick with such a successful formula. Moloko, though, did the opposite. The album is a subversive collection of pop songs which plunders a range of musical styles - from deep house to experimental breakbeats - much in the way that Blondie forged a marriage between punk, pop, disco and hip hop to create their own sound.

The comparisons to Blondie go deeper though. Singer Roisin Murphy is vividly reminiscent of a young Debbie Harry and not just because of her Eighties-style trailer-trash aesthetic. It's more in the way she holds our attention, switching between party girl and street-tough banshee with frightening ease.

Musically, Moloko explore their influences without ever compromising the band's sound. "Pure Pleasure Seeker" and "Mother" take on a fresh dimension live, the looseness of the environment adding a sense of spontaneity. Even the album's low points are much improved. "Somebody Somewhere" loses the Eighties disposable shimmer and comes over as part Vaudeville and part Vegas. That they seemingly throw away the recent "The Time is Now" hit early in the set only shows how confident they are live. But, in the truest tradition of live entertainment, they save "Sing It Back" till last. Not that you'd recognise it as the same track that has conquered the world. Over 10 minutes, the band move from an epic "We Will Rock You"-style introduction on to a Latino-funk hoedown that opens up on a hip hop jam before finishing with a drum solo. Yes, a drum solo! But that's Moloko; perverse to the very last.

Moloko play at Sheffield's 'Bed' tonight (0114-276 8080)

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