Turbonegro, Royal Princess, London<br></br>Adult. Barfly, London

A leisurely cruise... with the gay Scandinavian Hell's Angels
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The Independent Culture

"Ve are ze fifth Spanish armada", says the man with the badly-faked German accent. No, not the guy with the Nazi helmet on (that's his mate with the blusher). This is the guy with the piratical tricorne, the beer belly, the stubby telescope and the dangerously brandished sword. "But zis time," he continues, his one star-painted eye lasering through the crowd of fans, paparazzi, hacks and onlookers, "ve are Norvegians." In the eight o'clock shadow of Big Ben, a small squadron of latterday Viking invaders have landed for a heathen assault on the cradle of parliamentary democracy. Or less hyperbolically, a band of denim-clad rockers called Turbonegro have sailed towards Westminster pier on the prow (or is it the stern? The front, anyway) of the Royal Princess - a floating old man's pub out of Southampton - for a photo op, and a six hour gig/ boat trip up and down the Thames.

The Turbonegro story, then. The gay Scandinavian Hell's Angels (their exaggerated, aggressive campness is probably about as genuine as t.A.T.u.'s lesbianism) were one of Europe's biggest touring rock bands throughout the Nineties - although they meant nothing on this side of the North Sea - who split up in spectacularly shambolic fashion in 1998 when singer Hank von Helvete (yes, he's the shouty guy), who was suffering from schizophrenia, manic depression and heroin addiction, was admitted to a Milanese mental hospital.

In the intervening five years, a cult of Turbonegro has grown among indie rock movers and shakers - Dave Grohl, Steve Albini, QOTSA, The Hives, all the usual suspects - and Turbonegro have been persuaded to reform, just in time to catch the wave of interest in Proper Metal (currently being surfed effortlessly, like four Old Spice men, by The Darkness). Only this time, they have an excellent PR person, and the UK is starting to take notice.

Well, that's the official line. But one does wonder whether all this juicy, Spinal Tap-ish backstory might actually be fictionalised for British consumption, perhaps by that very same PR person, like one of those bands who, in the pre-internet age, insisted that they were "big in Japan", knowing full well that nobody had the wherewithal to check.

In any case, Turbonegro are here now, with three reissued albums under their studded belts - Apocalypse Dudes, Scandinavian Leather and the awesomely-titled Ass Cobra - and a repertoire of songs which includes "Don't Say Motherfucker, Motherfucker", "Bad Mongo", "Hobbit Motherfuckers", and "Wipe It 'Til It Bleeds".

You will have gathered that they are not, perhaps, entirely serious. However, given the Scandinavian love for dirty kickass rock, one cannot be certain. One thing is for sure: Turbonegro, with their matching denims and glitter-smeared cheeks, look like rock bands used to look in Steve Priest's day, sound like the wrecked, genuine 1970s article, and have convinced an international sub-tribe to join their Turbojugend (ladies from the Kernow chapter, in embroidered jackets and ripped stockings, welcome us at the gangplank with commemorative sailor's hats).

The boat ride itself is fascinating, if lengthy, and the sort of thing that you never get around to doing if you're a Londoner. But we've only taken a short ride down to Chelsea and back when an unearthly bellowing sound lets us know, more surely than any foghorn, that trouble is afoot. The band have already launched into "Just Flesh" and the 200 passengers rush to one side of the upper deck. (Port? Starboard? You know, the right side). With the result that the Royal Princess is now listing dangerously. At some point during "Sell Your Body (To The Night)", there's a sickening bump - an iceberg, on the Thames? - and the electricity cuts out. Your correspondent, who cannot swim, clambers through the blackness and attempts to make a run for it up the jetty to Tower Bridge, but it's locked. I have been kidnapped.

This, it turns out, isn't so bad. "Apparently, you are too fat", von Helvete jokes (it's a little rich coming from him), and the power is restored. The closing number, "I Got Erection", is the nearest thing Turbonegro have to an anthem, and catchy as hell, but you might want to think twice before singing it as you walk past a primary school.

Adult. - spell it without the full stop and they'll give you a hard stare - are the Ronseal Wood Stain of nouveau electro: they do exactly what it says on the tin. That is to say, a classier, more mature take on the whole thing.

Nicola Kuperus, who looks like a more severe Gwyneth Paltrow, is a fashion photographer by day, and accordingly, the music she made with the speccy, self-consciously nerdish bassist Adam Equation (né Miller) on their debut album, Resuscitation, was a poised study in elegant cool (typified by the much-compiled, much-loved "Hand To Phone"). The follow-up, this year's Anxiety Always was a much more spiky, ragged, disjointed affair, and it's this new, anxious Adult. which takes the stage tonight (it's notable that only four of the 13 songs are taken from the previous record). From the first notes of "We Know How to Have Fun", Kuperus sings with a Siouxsie-ish stridency and Lovich-like yelps which are a million miles from the mechanical monotone of "Hand To Phone". Adult. are the parallel universe Eurythmics, where you don't wanna kill either/ both members. Imagine hard.

s.price@independent.co.uk

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