ROCK / Shane's fairy tale of new work

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The Independent Culture
''YOU better give him a bloody good report,'' said a Shane MacGowan fan who spotted my notepad at the end of the concert. Anything to oblige: at London's Forum, MacGowan didn't keel over or forget the words, and he revealed that he has a singing voice and not just a raw roar. His new band, the Popes, were up to the job, particularly guitarist Paul McGuinness, a karate-kicking Bruce Willis lookalike. The crowd shouted along to the punky new single, ''That Woman's Got Me Drinking'', as much as to rollicking old favourites like ''Dirty Old Town'', and they shouted a carousing chorus of ''There's only one Shane MacGowan''.

But does he deserve the adulation? His continual leglessness had something to do with his departure from the Pogues, and now his record company markets him as ''the darkest star'', the last of a dying breed of living legends. Everyone knows the myth: he hates interviews, as he told the Independent on Sunday, The Face, Time Out, Loaded, Q and NME; he hates publicity gimmicks, and so does his recent Top of the Pops sidekick, Johnny Depp; his alcohol intake is such that dipsomaniac fish are said to ''drink like a Shane''. There are people on the street who drink more, of course, but they don't get to boast about it on The Danny Baker Show.

As long as he stays on the booze he can't lose. If he vomits on stage - fantastic - you've witnessed the MacGowan myth; if he doesn't vomit - fantastic - what a pro, he's got his act together these days. You have to judge him on his own terms, and on those he deserves a bloody good report: he was wobbly, not always comprehensible, he wandered dazed and confused across the stage, but he was the focal point of a rip-roaring evening. If he could ever be as enthusiastic as his band and his audience, the ''last great rock'n'roll star'' tag would be deserved.

Electrafixion must be the worst name for a band since Echo and the Bunnymen. Coincidentally, both were coined by Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant. Now Will and Mac are back, resisting the temptation to use their original name or songs, and playing places like the cramped Zap Club, just across the road from the Brighton Centre, whose 5,000 seats the Bunnymen filled in 1988.

They perform thrilling dark rock songs with portentous titles like ''Who's Been Sleeping in my Head?'', ''Mirrorball'' and, the first single, ''Zephyr'' (WEA). The influence of the Doors lingers on. The Bunnymen had a hit with ''People Are Strange''. Tonight, McCulloch slips in a verse of ''Moonlight Drive''. Other American influences are there in the Scouse singer's Michael Stipe-ish accent, the compelling Television-style guitar interplay, usually with McCulloch driving the chords while Sergeant skids over the top, and the grungey distortion. McCulloch calls it ''gringe'': grunge with a grin. I'd hate to see him play growlge or grimacege. He is typically gloomy, nettled by hecklers and gazing dully at his fretboard. He should cheer up, because after the wilderness years, Electrafixion are giving bad names a good name.

Paul Weller's Albert Hall concert on Thursday was like his career: alienating and self-indulgent in the middle, but later we loved him again.

He never spoke to the audience, and when the band lost themselves in yet another psychedelic jam (that's with a small ''j''), the crowd lost interest. But the last few songs pulled us back to a frenzied climax. The highlights were not on his albums: the new songs - the chiming piano ballad ''You Do Something to Me'' and the vigorous soul ''Changing Man'' - and Neil Young's ''Ohio'', for which he is joined by ex-Suede guitar god, Bernard Butler.

- Electrafixion: Preston Mill, 0772 885799, tonight; Edinburgh Venue, 031-557 3073, Tues; Greenock C C Browns, 0475 888369, Wed, Glasgow King Tut's, 041-221 5279, Thurs. Paul Weller: Aston Villa Leisure Centre, 021-328 8330, tonight; Newcastle City Hall, 091-261 2606, Tues; Glasgow Barrowlands, 041-552 4601, Wed & Thurs; Manchester G-MEX, 061-832 9000, Fri; Shepherd's Bush Empire, 081-740 7474, Sun 4 Dec.