Rock: How Jason puts the spirit into Spiritualized

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The Independent Culture
Flux Festival

Queen's Hall & Jaffa Cake

The Flux festival was founded last year as a means of representing rock in Edinburgh during August with more than a Gaelic balalaika trio and an acoustic set from Midge Ure. It has now established its own identity as a showcase for intelligent, artistic, alternative music. Or, as one Spiritualized fan put it after their concert in Queen's Hall last Friday: "I could have done without all the choral crap."

He wasn't the only disgruntled customer. The droning- guitar-quotient was somewhat lower than usual, and the every-other-sort- of-instrument quotient was higher. There was a clarinet, a sax, a vibraphone, the biggest drum I've ever seen ... Jason Pierce had recruited so many additional musicians that a stage invader wouldn't have been able to find room. Not that that's very unusual these days. Every band in the post-Oasis generation wheel on a string section when they want to puff up their tunes with pomp and circumstance, but Pierce has looked at the possibilities that lie beyond guitar-bass-drums in more detail. He knows that a well-placed tubular bell part can have at least as much potency as a whole philharmonic.

As the fan quoted above noted, the central column of the Flux arrangement was the beautifully intertwining chants of an eight-piece ecclesiastical choir. Spiritualized's music doesn't move forward, it builds upwards, layer upon layer, making for as immaculate a rock/ choir interface as any since the Rolling Stones's "You Can't Always Get What You Want". Three fat church candles flickered at the front of the stage, and Spiritualized sounded so spiritual that I kept glancing up to the Queen's Hall's rafters to see if I could spot a lurking Hunchback.

The Jesus and Mary Chain's gig at the Jaffa Cake on Sunday was closer to being what the Flux programme called "a kick-in-the-eye to Festival music", in that there was nothing in the least bit choral about it. The Mary Chain are the band you want to be in when you're a surly adolescent. They're a primal rock'n'roll combo: T Rex-go-punk melodies; walloping surf drums; one-note basslines; feedback screeching from speakers with JESUS painted on them; smoke spilling over the edge of the stage. They may know just four chords, but they know exactly in which order those chords belong.

But however surly the Mary Chain may be (William Reid responded to one request with a genuinely aggrieved: "Shut the fuck up! You know we're no' gonna play that!"), they're not adolescents any more. Jim Reid looks like Tony Parsons in a Coca-Cola T-shirt. They've been playing within the same parameters for years and tonight they sound more sweet and old-fashioned than harsh and cutting-edge. The opening and closing tracks from their latest album, Munki (Creation), are "I Love Rock'n'Roll" and "I Hate Rock'- n'Roll". Next to Spiritualized, though, they don't seem bothered about rock'n'roll one way or the other.

Je t'aime Gainsbourg, as you might guess, was a tribute to the magnifique musician, rebel, double-entendrist, pop subversive, Whitney Houston harasser and drunken, Toby- jug-faced bore. Laying the wreaths in the Jaffa Cake on Tuesday were the premier underachievers of Scottish rock. David Scott of the Pearlfishers and Duglas T Stewart of the BMX Bandits were the hosts, and the many guests who sang Serge's songs in English and French included Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake, Eugene Kelly of Eugenius, and various members of Belle & Sebastian and the Pastels.

Theirs was a shambolic, Bellshill garage-rock take on Gainsbourg's oeuvre, but it was an amiable introduction to the man and his work, all the same. It didn't claim to show Gainsbourg from any more than one perspective, and the people involved were obviously doing it for amour. Stewart had to borrow money from his Mum, he said, to print the souvenir T-shirts. Surely that's the spirit of Flux in a nutshell.

Flux (0131 667 7776), to Sat.

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