ROCK / Reggae show in no guns shock

THERE ARE no guns in Brixton for Jimmy Cliff. This is a mellow roots riposte to Hammersmith's ragga uprising of the week before. Fears of further trouble leave the Academy less packed than it should be, but a healthy crowd is still on hand to be bombarded with messages of peace and environmental concern. It may or may not be ironic that Cliff, who comes second only to Bob Marley in reggae's crossover canon, achieved his greatest fame in Perry Henzell's classic film The Harder They Come as a would-be pop star turned gangster.

Perched atop a bill that is part cabaret and part history lesson (teaching us above allthat Ken Boothe is as hardcore as he ever was), Cliff is smiley and tireless. 'Some of us are DJs, some of us sing, I Jimmy Cliff do every little thing' is his boast, and he backs it up with daring knee-drops and bubbling dance-hall chat as well as the soulful singing he's renowned for. The band are not as comfortable with the rock-steady rhythms of his early stuff as with later, blander stylings. Cliff is saddled with a guitarist who thinks Eric Clapton's was the definitive version of 'I Shot the Sheriff', but he still shows flashes of the old fire. And you just can't argue with 'Many Rivers to Cross'.

If Michael Jackson is sponsored by Pepsi and Beverley Craven by Tampax, why hasn't Black & Decker snapped up Einsturzende Neubauten? That is one question that might occur to those in the Clapham Grand lucky enough to see the stage. Another is 'How are they making that extraordinary high-pitched buzzing noise which seems to be coming from inside my head, and how much longer can I stand it?' Neubauten are no novelty act, however; they wouldn't drop gravel on boards, stretch and strum metal springs and climb up scaffolding to drip globules of boiling oil if it wasn't absolutely necessary. The blasted beauty of their noisescapes deserves more attention than their methods of construction. The band are not quite the fearsome spectacle they once were - Blixa Bargeld's cheekbones have lost some of their gauntness, and the mighty frame of F M Einheit, barely contained within a blacksmith's apron, is now benign rather than menacing - but when it comes to pushing the edges of the sonic envelope, only their countrymen Kraftwerk can touch them.

Last year P J Harvey battled it out with Suede as the great white hopes of indiedom. It will be surprising if their new album Rid of Me (Island, LP/CD/tape, out tomorrow) is clutched to as many hearts as Suede's has been. This record has been cunningly designed to scourge the idle pleasure-seeker. In tandem with producer Steve Albini, P J Harvey have crafted a very scary punk record - sharpening the sound until it gouges pits in your ears.

The title track is a monster. It starts with a muted guitar throb and then explodes, building again to a conclusion of unrestrained hysteria. What follows is a relentless assault on the senses and, occasionally, the nerves. Singer- songwriter-axewoman Polly Harvey's determination to do all her emotional dirty washing in public can be wearing, but she is a real talent and this is a far more satisfying record than last year's debut. There is too much to take in at one sitting, but the best of it - the deadly 'Dry', the imperious 'Me-Jane' - is great.

In terms of their critical standing, you would have to add water to Deacon Blue's name to make it mud. That doesn't seem to bother the crowd on the first of two sold- out nights at the Hammersmith Apollo, and it becomes clear that the fans have got a point. Deacon Blue have plainly taken a class at the U2 school of staging overkill, but the sudden influx of props - corrugated iron, big mirror, Bacofoil jackets and a troupe of dancing miners - is not unwelcome. The workmanlike songs of professional Glaswegian Ricky Ross respond well to the competition.

Ross has a reputation for taking himself more seriously than anyone else does, but he is an engaging and witty stage presence. His singing foil Lorraine Butler has a clear, high voice which interacts fruitfully with his breathy rasp, particularly in the romantic surroundings of 'Your Loving Arms'. It will be a shame if their bid simultaneously to grungify themselves and enhance their disco credibility is allowed to undermine the simple tunefulness that is their greatest asset.

(Photograph omitted)

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Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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