Is it all right to say this now? Sure? Then I shall begin. As I watched the twin towers tumble, the first thing I thought – OK, not the first thing, but it didn't take me too long – was, there goes the counter-culture.
America wasn't going to have much patience with dissent, in rock music or anywhere else. Critiques of Western capitalism? Nihilistic lyrics? Images of death and destruction? No thanks. The next Marilyn Manson album may receive a decidedly chilly welcome. Against this zero tolerance backdrop, we are now beginning to see the revival of something far, far worse than a bit of shouty W.A.S.P.-baiting: Christian rock.
In the Eighties, Bible-bashing metal bands like Stryper were a laughing stock, and you could spot them a mile off. Nowadays, their tactics are more insidious: they've worked out how to wear the trappings of credibility.
P.O.D. stands for Payable On Death. A dreadlocked nu-metal quartet from San Diego, their look is Rastafarian, their world view Jehovah's Witness. Their breakthrough album, Satellite, was released in the US on – how's this for timing – 11 September. In the subsequent months, it has shifted 2 million copies. That's twice as many as Slipknot, Tool or System Of A Down's latest.
"You won't see any crucifixes at our shows," they promise, but they have co-opted a Celtic trinity symbol into their logo. Like bare-chested longhairs Creed, P.O.D. have sussed out that subtlety works better than Parental Advisory stickers and TV Evangelist telethons. The noise they make is believable within the conventions of the genre: Marcos Curiel can lay down a mean Alice In Chains-y guitar lick, and bassist Noah "Wuv" Barnardo can cook up an authentic RATM rumble. Listen closely to Sonny Sandoval's lyrics, however, and you'll hear lines like "Make straight through the path of the one voice calling/Truth shines, back again two times in the Second Coming". If nu metal is near death, P.O.D. are the final nail in the cross.
I missed out on the Almost Famous-style "golden age" of rock journalism, and the payola that went with it: the rent-free apartments in Manhattan, the Jiffy Bags full of charlie that arrived with the week's singles, Concorde junkets to Hawaii and back to see the latest hot new taxloss, and what have you. All the same, I have had some moderately bizarre things sent to me in the post. Some bunch of hapless janglers called The Dylans once responded to one of my hatchet jobs by sending 12 crates of lemons to Melody Maker (the secretary made a lovely flan). Another new band tried to attract my attention with a Tupperware box containing a few bits of salad and a once-live, now-dead lizard. Most would-be bribers use more conventional methods. Someone has dispatched a huge crate of beer for my consumption, care of the IoS office (thanks, but I don't drink beer, so make it chocolate Teichenne next time, and anonymously, so that my integrity remains above reproach). My favourite, though, was simpler still: Miles Hunt sent me a cheque for £35, and he's had my sneaking respect ever since.
Reviewing If The Beatles Had Read Hunter, The Wonder Stuff's cockily-titled best-of collection, I confessed that in my younger, more foolish days, I must have shelled out, ooh, 35 quid on records, tickets and merchandise from the chirpy Midlands grebos, but I couldn't see what I ever saw in them now. The next day, with no covering note, there it was: Barclays Bank, Camden Town. £35.00 only. M Hunt. I never cashed it (well, you don't, do you?).
The unusual thing about Hunt, following The Wonder Stuff's split, was the speed of his fall from fame. One minute, it seemed, he was goofing around with Vic Reeves on Top Of The Pops, the next his new band, Vent, was traipsing around the pub circuit. And so, almost a decade on and following a brief Wonder Stuff comeback, history is repeating itself as his gentle, country-ish new project The Miles Hunt Club begins a month-of-Mondays residency at the Borderline. Hunt's an undeniably engaging frontman: fag hanging from lip, wine bottle in hand, anecdotes at the ready, he's a human version of that canine raconteur from the Smirnoff ads. The tunes, sadly, are less than memorable, with the exception of the closing "All I Need To Do".
Five years after my involvement in the brief but bright-burning RoMo (Romantic Modernist) movement, much mocked at the time and misrepresented as a "New Romantic" revival, you can't move for Shoreditch stylechasers telling you that Eighties-influenced synthpop is, "like, really cool, yeah?". None of which applies to Riviera, who don't attempt to hide their RoMo roots. One song's refrain, "You know plastic is forever", is a direct quote from the original RoManifesto, and they remind me of Hollywood, the original scene's glacial Swedish/English girl duo, although Riviera's look – girls in legwarmers and lace gloves, boys in epaulettes and button-downs – and their cover of Martha and the Muffins' "Echo Beach" have more to do with the Eighties proper.
Tracks such as "International Lover", "Kiss No.38" ("in the back of a limousine", indeed) and "Now We've Got Europe" display an acute appreciation of continental romance and ageless glamour, and Russian singer Alexa's deader-than-deapan delivery, unsmiling aloofness and Helsinki-blonde locks are reminiscent of Debbie Harry in the "Atomic" video. It's just a shame that Logan Sky (keyboards) and Taylor Sloane (bass) – those are their stage names and they're sticking to them – can't provide the power the songs deserve. The presence of an unmanned drumkit behind them is deliciously ironic. All of Riviera's beats come from a drum machine christened RT-123. "It doesn't sweat," they explain, "and it never takes its shirt off." With the right producer, Riviera could go all the way.Reuse content