Pop music: Raising a storm on the way to number one

Liese Spencer blows hot in praise of Hurricane, who could be one of the greatest bands never to have happened, but still aim bigger than their peers
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Leaning against the bar of an Oxford pub, there is an air of displacement about Alex Lowe, as if he has been plucked from another time and place. Then he starts talking about Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas and you realise that other time and place is celluloid and that his life is a film. Age fifteen, he left school to box, in order to support his mother. The day Creation records phoned to say they wanted him to come to London and audition for Hurricane, he was working as a labourer on a farm.

"I had one cigarette and one match left. It started raining, the cigarette and match were ruined and I said, "right that's it. I'm selling all my stuff and moving away so nobody knows me."

As it turned out he got the job and moved away to where people would know him. Each of the bands four singles have gone top forty and the last was top twenty. On a recent tour of Japan, things were insane, with roads barricaded off and hysterical female fans trying to grab the shirt off Alex's back, in best "Hard Days Night" fashion.

Before Hurricane No. I had recorded a single note, Creation records boss, Alan McGee was boasting of his discovery: "Alex is a Glaswegian ex-boxer with the voice of Rod Stewart". Bear in mind that McGee unleashed the star potential of Liam Gallagher, and you'll understand the level of charisma he picked for Hurricane.

Hurricane (they added the "No. 1" at the request of the Beastie Boys side kick, DJ Hurricane) were contrived as a vehicle for Creation stalwart Andy Bell, ex-guitarist in Ride, the seminal indie band of the early nineties. Ride were dubbed "shoegazers" because their music and performance was so fragile and introspective. Bell was generally considered the most interesting aspect of the often anaemic group, and the music he has made with Lowe is certainly a lot tougher and more energised than anything he did before.

Fleshed out by Will Pepper's bass - Will used to be in cult band The Hypnotics. His friends would like him to become a policeman so they could call him Sergeant Pepper - and twenty year old wise beyond his years drummer, Gaz, who was himself a huge Ride fan, Hurricane sound more epic, more committed than your average "indie" band.

Blonde in a way that even his skin looks blonde, Bell is thoroughly middle class, saying things like "I haven't achieved anything in my life. Forget about it" and recalling nights when he's decided to write a novel and then, two hours later, opted against it because it's too much hard work.

Bell's marriage to Creation singer-songwriter ldha is famously idyllic. He is also very proper, the kind of man you imagine would play his girlfriend Joni Mitchell songs to distract her from menstrual cramps. Told the shenanigans of a celebrity he had been lauding as a genius, Bell screws up his face in disgust and hisses "He's a slag".

Where Andy looks like the kind of man to lend a girl his coat Alex looks like he'd think of ways to have her take it off. He loves doing interviews and often phones up Creation demanding more. Established stars are generally less sexy than starlets and Lowe has the impatient buzzing energy of a starlet.

"I hate people who make it and then say, I can't take it, it's all too much. What's too much. You go on stage for half an hour every second night. You sing some songs and you get paid for it."

Bell and Lowe are a great rock team, the ex-boxer and the ex-shoegazer.

"I would write songs whatever happened," says Bell, "and the songs I write help me to get through the next six months. I'm on my own personal trip. But I am totally grateful to Alex for making them come alive."

A niggling issue for Bell, who has been on Creation for ten years now, is how the label has changed post- Oasis.

"They've changed for good and bad. I've been on Oasis - I mean Creation - since 1989. Since then things have become much more corporate. But because of Oasis, there's been a lot of money around so I guess that's good."

He sighs.

"Me being on Creation has a direct correlation to me being friends with Alan McGee. The minute he has a week or month off or feels like he's not involved any more, that's when I start feeling that Creation don't care anymore? Why am I bothering? Then Alan comes back and Creation care."

At an Idha gig a few months back, NME reported a fist fight between Alex and Liam Gallagher, allegedly and laughably over Liam's insistence that Alex had copied his haircut. Apparently the two have now made up.

Alex is sanguine about it all. "It's all fine. I hate getting into competition with other musicians. I wish success for every band, because I know how hard I've tried for it."

They have yet to appear on Top Of The Pops ("Puff Daddy was picked, even though he charted lower than us" pouts Alex) and Hurricane No. 1 deserve to have it happen. Their problem is that they are perceived as "another Creation band", one of the many who aren't Oasis. It's a pity because they really do have something, although sometimes their records don't sound quite as defined or complete as they might be. Significantly, during a discussion about John versus Paul, Andy points out, "It doesn't matter what a song is, but what it appears to be".

Their debut single, "Step Into My World" and the new one, "Only The Strongest Will Survive", are times when the vision did make it coherently onto vinyl, grand, overwrought even, but most importantly, not embarassed to be overwrought.

If Hurricane remain nothing more than one of the greatest bands never to have happened, they still aimed bigger than their peers.

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