The Lightning Seeds: Kilburn National, London

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The Independent Online
No one can say Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds didn't pay his dues - in 20 years on the music circuit, he has acted as supreme producer for the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen, Wah!, The Fall, Sleeper and Dodgy. His own musical interludes have not always been convincing - he's wary about his "high and weedy" voice - but when the Lightning Seeds were born in 1989, "Pure" touched a vulnerable spot in the British psyche, about to go belly up during the grunge era. Astute or just lucky, Broudie was ahead of his time. Out of sync with the Seattle stranglehold, the 37-year- old Liverpudlian's upbeat melodies and ambivalent lyrics fit right in with Britpop - mulish, suburban Englishness that out-quirks Blur, ambient loops to out-fey the Beloved. Jollification, released in 1994, was the acme of the style; it sold in bucketfuls and if, to this cynic, it sounds winsome and insipid, it's churlish to say so when Broudie never claimed to be anything but a pop disciple.

The latest single, "Ready or Not", shows Broudie's perfect craftsmanship kicked into touch with a new urgency, and it's evident tonight, when waify tinkerings are dispensed with and tunes get blasted, ironically, with grungey, thrashing nerve. There's a drum break on "Marvellous" during which Chris Sharrock, bathed in a creepy, Damien-esque glow, seems possessed. "Feeling Lazy", that hymn to disaffected mooching, slows down to a spaced, druggy slew, while "Change" happens at twice its normal velocity, guitars chiming like Byrds-y Rickenbackers. By the time we reach "Life of Riley", theme to Match of the Day's "Goals of the Week" slot, the audience is heading invisible balls, while several couples near me go into elaborate clinches. "Pure" is dark, austere and beautiful, the lighting a sub-Goth treat of funereal indigo.

It's all too much for my neighbour at the bar, a cheated fan in his mid- thirties who's decided proceedings are "much too heavy" and Broudie's "a miserable Scouser". Broudie, in glasses and hideous Beatles cut, takes two encores, during one of which Sharrock knocks delight out of his kit and upsets a cymbal stand on "Lucky You". We await the forthcoming album with interest, I think.

GLYN BROWN

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