Grunge not grunge

Last autumn, Boston four-piece Come were over in Spain shooting Radiation, a punk-rock road movie that's half in Spanish and half in English. They got to play a disgruntled American rock band called, er, Come. The first scene in the film has them flying into Madrid and their contact turns up six hours late. On the flight over, the band read the script and thought "Wouldn't it be funny if that happened". But it did. Six months later in Austin, Texas it's almost deja vu for Come. We were given different times for the interview, so they've been sitting outside a venue on the edge of downtown Austin since 10am when I arrive over two hours later. Then they are hauled into soundcheck for their South By Southwest Festival showcase. Predictably enough, the soundcheck has its hitches, and when we all get to sit down in the carpark of the Electric Lounge, it's way beyond lunchtime.

Thankfully, Come are not the disgruntled typecasts; their real life story has taught them to be patient. In late 1992, they debuted with the astonishingly dark and noisy Eleven:Eleven album. That was the era of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and Come were tipped as the next big thing. According to Chris Brokaw, who along with Thalia Zedek shares guitars and vocals in the band, "we never really bought that theory. I didn't think what we were doing was very commercial stuff. Most songs were too long for the radio and there wasn't a 4/4 beat that went all the way through the songs, so the next big thing didn't really happen and we got the cult following - quote, unquote. We were lucky in the UK that there was a lot of attention on loud guitar bands in 1993 when we did our first tour, but when Britpop came along, we and our peers didn't really stand a chance. There was a big backlash to grunge even though we were never a grunge band. It was just that we were around at the same time."

Indeed Eleven:Eleven, with its deep blues underlay, was already ahead of the grunge game. Now for the band's fourth album, Gently Down The Stream, critics on both sides of the Atlantic are back on Come's side, even though Brokaw is just as proud of their second and third albums. "I think this one sounds really different from Eleven:Eleven, claims Thalia Zedek. "Some of the songs are a lot more aggressive and longer and take their time building up. It's not as dark. The palate of moods is broader," she says with a big smile. "It is more open, alive and sharper."

Those three adjectives are as apt as any to describe Come's live show, which along with their recorded output, sets them apart as one of the consistently great American bands of the decade.

Watch out too for Willard Grant Conspiracy, another Bostonian ensemble, playing what they describe as "swamp noir".

Come + Willard Grant Conspiracy: Water Rats, Gray's Inn Road, WC1 (0171- 837 7269) 15 Apr

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