REVIEW / Back] Back]: The Bible - Clapham Grand

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The Independent Online
THE brief and tragic history of contemporary British pop songwriting: Elvis Costello decided that if you could whistle it, then it wasn't any good, and started making records with string quartets; Danny Wilson made two albums and split (although Gary Clark of that group has recently and promisingly re-emerged); Deacon Blue took the stadium shilling even before they released their first album; and Aztec Camera . . . well, we don't really know what happened to Aztec Camera, but it was something bad. Poor Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout is now the sole survivor of what looked, not long ago, a thriving tradition.

The Bible, who could have been the best of the lot, came to naught too, first time around: a couple of terrific albums, a couple of near-miss singles, and then a lot of record company nonsense that led to a parting of the ways at the turn of the decade, a new band, the Liberty Horses, for brilliant guitarist Neil MacColl, and a solo career for singer Boo Hewerdine. It would be untrue to say that there was national rejoicing when they decided to reform for a couple of shows. The nation, alas, probably didn't even notice that they had gone, which was partly why they went in the first place. But there was a little corner of Clapham overjoyed to see them again, and the Grand was packed and noisy.

Mysteriously, the Bible seem to have improved during their absence. Perhaps they needed a four-year accumulation of adrenalin, or perhaps it has taken them that long to realise just how good they are, but they set about their back catalogue with a gratifying ferocity and self-belief. The necessarily anthemic 'She's My Bible' and the tender 'Honey Be Good', sounded as though they were delighted to have been let out of the CD box to play.

If one had forgotten just how many great Bible songs there were, it was partly because so many of them never saw the inside of a Virgin Megastore - there were at least two albums-worth of material inexplicably deemed unfit for public consumption. 'Talk Me Down' and 'Tears As Hard As Diamonds', a mid-tempo Steely Dan-style shuffle illuminated by Neil MacColl's wah-wah, were rescued for the occasion; two new numbers written during rehearsals, '1981' and 'Easy', demonstrated that the band's collective songwriting gift has not deserted them.

'Should we get back together, then?' an obviously happy Hewerdine yelled at the throng of obviously happy punters. It would be nice to think that a record company person with brains, taste, ears and a cheque book was at the Grand to hear the roar of affirmation (indeed, it would be nice to think that a record company person with brains, taste, ears and a cheque book was anywhere, even at home watching Blind Date, on Saturday night). New Zealand's Crowded House and America's Aimee Mann have proved this year that there is a market for crafted, intelligent, melodic pop; maybe next year the Bible will be given a chance to prove that their time has finally come.