Kasabian, Academy, Manchester<br/>Cranes, ICA, London

The (slight) return of baggy
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The Independent Culture

'It's not where you're from," king monkey Ian Brown once famously stated, "it's where you're at." The place Kasabian are from is Leicester. (That, at least, is what they say, but you can bet they mean somewhere a bit nicer, like Oadby or Kibworth Harcourt.) The place Kasabian are living is Rutland, in a rented outbuilding on a remote farm. But the place Kasabian are at, spiritually and, tonight, physically, is right here in Manc.

'It's not where you're from," king monkey Ian Brown once famously stated, "it's where you're at." The place Kasabian are from is Leicester. (That, at least, is what they say, but you can bet they mean somewhere a bit nicer, like Oadby or Kibworth Harcourt.) The place Kasabian are living is Rutland, in a rented outbuilding on a remote farm. But the place Kasabian are at, spiritually and, tonight, physically, is right here in Manc.

Kasabian, five skinny string-o-beans with straggly beards, shoulder-length self-cut hair and slouching, Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo demeanour, couldn't be more thrilled to be here. "Manchest-ohhh!!!" says singer Tom Meighan, by way of greeting, and he repeats the word as often as he can.

This is because the bands whom Kasabian most resemble - The Stone Roses circa The Second Coming, mid-period Charlatans, early Happy Mondays, recent Primal Scream, The Music, The Cooper Temple Clause - are overwhelmingly from, or influenced by, the baggy boom, and they must be thrilled that Mani, who played bass in not one but two of those bands, is grooving at the back of the hall.

They've even gone so far as to recreate the Madchester bands' rampant homophobia, calling Will Young a "gel-wearing puff" in last week's NME, which suggests, somewhat depressingly, that Kasabian are not the brightest bulbs in the box, and that there's little intellectual foundation beneath their outwardly-pleasing gang-like image and air of outlaw chic (they're named after one of Charles Manson's Family, presumably in the tiresome belief that murderers are cool).

Nevertheless, Kasabian have attracted a growing cult: their album entered the chart at number three, and they could probably have filled this room five times over. This is on the strength of their live shows which, to anyone too young to remember The Stone Roses and Ian Brown, from whom Meighan has copped all his messianic moves, must seem genuinely exciting.

And sonically, they are not devoid of merit. Earlier this year, Kasabian told Manchester-based journalist John Tatlock about a fight they once had, in which keyboardist Christopher Karloff had to wrestle control of the CD player from songwriter Segrio Pizzorno, in order to get rid of Pink Floyd and replace it with Donna Summer. It's an anecdote which illustrates Kasabian's musical dichotomy, and one which you can hear being re-enacted midway through their finest song, "Reason Is Treason", when the pounding rockist pianos cease, and give way to a shuddering Giorgio Moroder synth pulse.

The crowd in the palm of his hand, Meighan attempts a little call-and-response. "Who's Manchester United?" he says, asking for a show of hands, "and who's Manchester City? This is for the two of you, together." He makes a victory V with his fingers. I'd love to know if he tried that stunt in Glasgow.

Last time I saw Cranes at the ICA, I ended up in hospital. In those days, I was a proper goth - it was that long ago - and, during a burst of alcohol-enhanced post-gig high spirits, one of my goth mates splatted bloodily down onto Trafalgar Square from the head of one of the lions, and had to be rushed to UCH. In the early Nineties, Cranes seemed a dignified way forward for the gothic aesthetic. No skulls, spiders or bats, but plenty of brooding atmosphere.

Alison Shaw, with her mad-sister-in-the-attic hair and lady-in-the-radiator voice, was an enchanting frontperson, and her band, led by brother Jim, made music which recalled the Siouxsie of "Overground" or the Cocteaus of Victorialand, by turns ethereal and brutal.

One has to admire the tenacity and vision of a band who, in the heyday of lowbrow Gallagher-rock, released an entire album based on Jean Paul Sartre's Les Mouches and, a decade later, little about them has altered. Stepping out into a swirl of green smoke, Alison's hair is still piled up in those pre-Raphaelite curls, her voice still retains its helium-high Minnie Mouse quality, and Cranes' music is as stark and minimal as the glowering filaments which constitute their lightshow.

The later Cranes material, which has been progressively lighter and positive ("the universe is ours," Shaw sings, in a song which might almost have been written by Mercury Rev, "got everything we need...") makes much better sense when juxtaposed with their dark early material, and Shaw remains a mesmerising presence.

It's just like Britpop never happened. Well, a man can dream...

Kasabian: Radio 1 Big Weekend, Perry Park, Birmingham (free tickets are available today only, see www.bbc.co.uk/radio 1), 19 Sept

s.price@independent.co.uk

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