Pop: Red is the colour, bloodless the sound

REPUBLICA DINGWALLS LONDON

REPUBLICA'S SAFFRON has courted more than her fair share of controversy, though until recently it has been for little more than her lurid hairdo. Last year, she advised Janet Jackson to "'Ave a word with yourself, love" after she appeared on stage with red streaks in her hair, while Lene from Scandinavian pop sensation Aqua was similarly cut down to size after sporting a blood-red barnet.

To be fair, Republica have certainly made it musically in the US, providing a riotous soundtrack to frat-house parties and even getting played on Baywatch from time-to-time. But they have found it harder to sustain a successful pop presence on these shores. The London trio first appeared late in 1996, their rousing anthem, "Ready To Go", having a degree of success, but were soon eclipsed by the success of their smarter counterparts, Garbage. Other jarringly similar singles have come and gone, but to no great effect.

It is Saffron's cockney brass, more than anything else, that has sustained her flourishing media persona, having secured her a stream of soundbites in the style bibles and regular slots on pop discussion programmes. While the girls bill and coo over her luscious locks, the boys slaver at her glittering eyes, tight trousers and sex-kitten sneer.

And the boys were certainly out in force at last night's show. Row upon row of sweaty, hormone-addled disciples packed the front, crumbling submissively under Saffron's steely gaze. The band opened with the raucous "Drop Dead Gorgeous" that had the lads wailing inanely and frothing at the mouth. This was later followed by the new single "From Rush Hour With Love", a pouty, shouty, power-pop number that is bursting with adolescent attitude, though bears little relation to the film upon which it is based.

While Republica are in possession of an irresistible allure and a magnificently feisty stage presence, the thrill factor is short-lived as the band's limited repertoire soon became apparent. Though their sing-a-long melodies are instantly captivating and have you jiggling about for the first few bars, closer inspection reveals grating lyrics and cliched choruses that a gaggle of love-sick sixth-formers might have composed.

Eager to please, each track contains the requisite amount of chart-friendly pop, clattering guitars and penetrating Siouxsie Sioux vocals - enough to court teenage musos, but sadly not enough to sustain a career.

Republica have a handful of amiable, value-for-money singles that fuse synthesised post-punk rock with shamelessly trite indie pop, but they are ultimately uninspiring. And while the music might not last the course, Saffron, at least, can look forward to a glittering career in television.

A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper

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