Pop: The A to Z of perfect pop
Saturday 11 December 1999
Here's an odd thing. A crowd of youngish people are happily jumping around to the sound of a car ad, a couple of girls even mimicking the annoying arm movements and head shaking tics of the ad's "star".
Ian Broudie, the frontman, producer and, at one point, the entire line- up of the Lightning Seeds, must be endlessly confused by the course his career has taken. "Marvellous" is a perfectly decent pop song of course but, like Broudie's other best known work, "Three Lions", the football anthem which actually caught on with the people who sing at football matches (and which isn't performed this evening, although there's an audience singalong at the set's conclusion), it's reached way beyond a conventional pop constituency to become a tune familiar to the entire nation.
Instant familiarity is exactly what the Seeds trade in. Despite claims that new album Tilt represents a nod to contemporary dance styles, there's nothing on it that will surprise any confirmed, or floating, fans. Tracks like the recent single "Life's Too Short", strangely reminiscent of Blondie's disco experiments circa 1981, and the insanely reassuring "It's About Time", prove that Broudie's songwriting gift hasn't faded in the slightest, or progressed for that matter.
His single-minded quest to put the "perfect pop", once touted by the likes of New Order and Teardrop Explodes, into the charts has proved more successful than his original templates.
Yet whether the Seeds need to perform at all is debatable. Though some of these tunes are undoubtedly wonderfully effective - "Change" belts along like one of the Buzzcocks' finest moments, "Pure" remains the best song Julian Cope never wrote, and "Life of Riley", familiar as the theme music to Match of the Day, is more than just a soundbite - these radio hits, removed from their natural context (DJ talks about traffic congestion just after the second chorus) don't really gain a great deal.
Despite the best efforts of his band, including fine drummer, Zak Starkey, whose dad once played in some Liverpool combo, the unassuming Broudie hardly radiates charisma.
The very fact that he seems entirely unmoved when not a single member of the crowd filling this entertainingly garish nightclub moves to the evening's first tune, "City Bright Stars", is telling. It's positively eerie to see such an apathetic response from an audience presumably happy to pay, yet with so many hits to come Broudie can afford to keep calm. By the set's conclusion of course it's a bit of a party, concluding in a singalong bash through Phil Spector's "Be My Baby". Undoubtedly entertaining then, but hugely uninvolving.
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