Pop: Play that funky music

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The Independent Culture
REEF

TOWN AND COUNTRY, LEEDS

TO PARAPHRASE The Troggs, you could feel it in your fingers and your toes, too. It was sex, not love, that was all around, though. While most Nineties rock bands fall as far short of eroticism as an Anne Summers G-string, Reef have a way with scuzzy funked-up grooves which can scorch your crotch. Tonight, just a few dates into a UK tour which has sold out without any attendant new release, they were welcomed back like the saviours of British rock they undoubtedly are. Not even the sight of security men enjoying dubious frottage with the female crowd-surfers they were "rescuing" could dampen the mood.

The band have just returned from Los Angeles where they've been recording their much-tipped third album by night and surfing near Marina del Rey by day. They're an athletic-looking bunch, all pecs and six-packs. Heterosexual females tend to scream at them. If you're a heterosexual male, you resolve to do more sit-ups.

As the evening progressed, Gary Stringer, whose big, rasping voice is often compared to that of Free's Paul Rodgers, underlined his primal oomph by swinging his arms like King Louie from The Jungle Book. Jack Bessant - possibly the coolest bass player since Bootsy Collins - strutted like a lanky peacock. Crucially, both Bessant and guitarist Kenwyn House keep the music as taut as their stomach muscles.

They were confident enough to preview four new songs, a couple of which had a swaggering acoustic feel redolent of Led Zeppelin III as reworked by Sly Stone. The strongest newie was "Who You Are". Delivered with garage-punk energy, its instantly memorable guitar hook was a reminder that for Reef, the riff is king.

And that is their strength. Songs such as "Naked", "I Would Have Left You" and "Place Your Hands" all have riffs you want to sing, and in a pop world where The Tamperer needs to cut and paste motifs by The Jacksons and Madonna to trouble the charts, House's inventive guitar parts are a breath of fresh air.

As has become customary at Reef gigs, Stringer did a bit of crowd-surfing during the encores, eventually emerging from the throng minus his T-shirt and trainers. His band are looking good for a number one album next year, so he'll probably be able to claim for the odd pair of Nikes on expenses.

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