Louis XIV, Barfly, London

The hot young sound of the wild west
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The Independent Culture

Maintaining your style and poise in a hot climate is always a challenge, and rising mod-glam quartet Louis XIV, who reside in San Diego, Southern California - where, as a sweet, essentially benign, but nevertheless aesthetically disgusting bunch of hippies once sang, it never rains - are deserving of our utmost respect, for steadfastly disregarding the temperature and trussing themselves up in waistcoats, cravats and eyeliner, while all around them their punky peers languish in big shorts and sawn-off T-shirts.

Jason Hill, Brian Karscig, Jimmy Armbrust III and Mark Maigaard sport choppy haircuts and grown-out bobs, dress like Spinal Tap in the black-and-white flashback sequences, and have the sort of looks that will have teenage girls ripping down their Killers and Bravery posters before the year is out ("All the kids on the street/ They think I'm neat neat neat neat" may turn out to be a very prescient couplet).

Singer-guitarist Hill has the wide-faced handsomeness of a young Ozzy Osbourne (The Oz was once, you might be amazed to learn, pretty), who in turn looked like a young Ollie Reed. Guitarist and co-singer Karscig has that roguish, boyish David Essex thing going on, and bassist Armbrust is so smoulderingly swoonsome that you can't look at him for too long, for fear you might "turn". (The jury's out on Maigaard, as his face was obscured by a cymbal.) They're not, you feel, named by accident. By calling themselves after the Sun King, an absolutist autocrat from the age of 13, the longest-reigning monarch in European history and the man who supposedly said "L'État c'est moi", this band are sending out an unequivocal message about their self-confidence. As Hill hails us with a Duce salute (like Bowie, like Di Canio, if challenged he may pass it off as being caught "mid-wave", although then again, maybe he wouldn't bother) and sings "me me me me... is all I really wanna talk about", it's clear that Louis XIV are every bit as imperious as their 17th-century namesake.

Not that they're Francophiles. Louis XIV are one of the most blatantly Anglophile bands ever to come out of America. Their speech is littered with Briticisms like "terrific" and "fantastic", their vocals are riddled with decidedly unAmerican glottal stops ("Pull your skirt up a little bi'/ Pull your top down and show me a li'l ti'"), they're clearly besotted with the UK as their first visit reaches its close ("We're gonna miss the Tube," says Brian, "the buses and the accents... but not the goddamn fried food. You guys fry everything! It's like the South!"), and they end with an impromptu jam containing the line "God save The Kinks".

Their music, too, is rooted in this country. Current single "God Killed the Queen", which clocks in, thrillingly, at five seconds short of two minutes, combines The Who at their uptightest best with T.Rex in their strutting, rutting prime. This is how Sixties R&B might have turned out if, instead of switching from stimulants to psychedelics (thus ruining British rock for the best part of a decade), the mods had gone for hard aphrodisiacs instead (the yet-to-be-invented Viagra, perhaps).

This band are so perma-horny, so sexually-charged - Hill actually drawls "Who's your daddy?", porno-style, at one point - that you suspect they walk around with a constant "semi" (I'm too polite to look). Back in the States, some critics have already labelled Louis XIV "sexist". "I know I ain't correct...", Hill rhymes by way of explanation, "but politics is so much better when there's sex...". "Finding Out True Love Is Blind" is their most priapic moment, opening with a slap-in-the-face of a verse which begins "Chocolate Girl! Well, you're looking like something I want/ And your little Asian friend, she can come if she wants...", which seems every bit as shocking and racially dubious as Lou Reed's "coloured girls" in "Walk On The Wild Side", until Hill sleazes up to a "carrot juice" girl and her "vanilla friend" too, and you realise he's an equal-opportunities seducer.

This is rock'n'roll, after all. And as the man himself puts it, "If you want clean fun, go fly a kite".

s.price@independent.co.uk

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