Pop Preview: The ABC of M People

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M People

Exeter Westpoint Arena

M stands for Manchester, Mercury Music Awards, and mainstream - and are part of all three. Critics would say that the M is for "mmm", as music critics stand bewildered by any attempts to categorise the band. After all, they consist of Mike Pickering, an ex-acid house DJ who played out the Manchester dance music explosion from its home at the Hacienda club, soul diva Heather Small who belies her surname with a statuesque presence that holds tight live performances, and classically trained musician Paul Heard.

Bringing together classical production, dance melodies and full strength lyrics, is understandably confusing. Some would say they have bypassed the credentials of each to create a sound that is a mainstream amalgam. But as it means that "Moving On Up" is used for a Labour election campaign, and can inspire staunch Tories to hum along, you know that regardless of kudos in the critic sphere, they have stumbled on something special in the pop world.

Their first album, Elegant Slumming (released in 1993) was a pretext to a series of paradoxical submissions. For instance, when they won the Best Dance Act of the Year, even Pickering, (who also owns the acclaimed dance label deConstruction), balked slightly at being included in this genre. The label of mainstream dance still sticks, but not too firmly that they can't headline acid jazz concerts.

The trio have knocked around with all factions of the dance scene - and revealed it's various influences. Simply put, their pop, disco and dance formula will trip into your head and follow you around the whole day, catching you with songs like "Moving On Up," "One Night In Heaven", "Don't Look Any Further" and "How Can I Love You More."

The sound-bite culture of politics and advertising have been quick to realise their potential to grasp a moment and keep it there. Allied-Lyons recently gave them a 1.4 million sponsorship deal to promote a coffee liqueur and their "Search for the Hero' track has been used as the soundtrack for a Peugeot car advert.

Radiating optimism and lyrically positive songs is not as easy as their chart hits and sing-a-long style suggests. Which is where the word unique makes it's undeniable stamp on . As Paul Heard says, "I think it is much harder to write an uplifting song than a downbeat song, especially in a way that is poetic and fresh".

play Exeter Westpoint Arena tonight. Tickets pounds 20.00 (0990 321321). Their new album `Fresco' featuring the hit singles `Just For You' and `Fantasy Island' is out now.