The arts in 1999: Rock & Pop

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The Independent Culture
My rock and pop predictions for next year: the Artist Formerly Known as Prince will buy an island with the royalties from "1999". Fear of the millennium bug will prompt a sudden surge in sales of acoustic guitars to dance programmers. In order not to miss out on the trend of the 1990s, several bands will break up specifically so that they can go on a reunion tour. Sampling will reach its logical conclusion, and the new album from Pras will just be the Bee Gees' greatest hits, except with their name crossed out on the sleeve in Biro, and his name scribbled above it. In BBC2's new docusoap, Pop Group, the singer will confess that his ambition in life is to be a zoo keeper, and before the end of the series he'll be invited to start work at Whipsnade. And the nostalgia boom will catch up on us, so that in late 1999 there will be a proliferation of early 1999 revival clubs.

On a brighter note, if most of last year's best records came from big names, this year will see a deluge of bold newcomers - and newishcomers mixing up genres, hurdling boundaries, incorporating every instrument and influence that strays within reach, and forcing rock journalists to come up with lots of hyphenated new terms: urban jungle-rock for Purity; garage-goth for One Lady Owner; art-lounge-beat-poetry for Experimental Pop Band.

Koot are a perfect example. Four Morcheeba proteges from Canterbury, they make laid-back mooch-rock that encompasses gospel and dub, and gives Primal Scream plenty to be nervous about. Even more inspirational are Brothers in Sound. One minute their comforting psychedelia has you thinking of Air's squelchy retro-futurism, the next it's like the Velvet Underground covering Gomez. And despite their initials, they're not to be confused with Bis, who are due for a comeback themselves.

Ooberman are piano-dappled, pastoral, prog-indie dreamers who may not get millions of fans, but who will lodge deep in the hearts of the fans they do get. Gay Dad have Roxy Music's fusion of postmodern shrewdness and silver-painted, space-warrior glam (naturally, their singer is a rock journalist). Don't ask me why they've chosen a name that scuppers their chances for megastardom.

Technique are two women who try the Eighties, erm, technique of adding detached vocals to synthesiser music that's been drenched in fabric-softener. It's no surprise that their co-producer's past clients include New Order and the Pet Shop Boys. Another female duo, Sing Sing, is the new venture from Emma Anderson, formerly of Lush: pop that twinkles like sunset on a boat-bobbing sea. Which barely leaves space to mention Language Lab's spiralling rap, Ultrasound's sleazy epics or Presence's sophisticated electro-balladry.

On the more commercial side of things, Liz Horsman's slickly arranged marriage of big tunes, big guitars and big angst means she could be the next Natalie Imbruglia, if not the next Alanis Morissette. And I have a horrible feeling we'll be hearing from the Moffatts, a bunch of shiny- grinned brothers in their early teens who are distinguishable from Hanson in only three ways. First, there are four of them. Second, three of them are triplets. And third, they're Canadian. You've been warned.

While all this is going on, the familiar faces won't exactly be in hiding. The Blondie reunion album, No Exit, should be on sale in February. Blur, Electronic and Bentley Rhythm Ace should have albums ready in March. Beck is promising the official follow-up to Odelay, and Supergrass will have an album out in May.

There are yet more tour dates for the Corrs in January and February, Robbie Williams is on tour in February, Catatonia in March, The Beautiful South in April, Meat Loaf in March and April, and Tony Bennett in April and May. The Rolling Stones's postponed stadium dates (they didn't want to pay tax, if you remember) have been rescheduled to early June, and Celine Dion will be taking her titanic tonsils around some outdoor stadiums in July.

To finish, I'll go out on a limb, throw caution to the wind and make a stab in the dark. Call me a crackpot, but, maybe, just maybe, we'll hear some new material from Elastica this year.

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