Pop: Showing their metal

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Indy Lifestyle Online
February proved a month of surprises, with two underdog outfits previous aligned with the "lo-fi" scene (for lo-fi, read: no money, threadbare equipment, awkward tunes, but full-on attitude) joining the mainstream pop constabulary. Three years ago, no-one would have predicted the present top 40 singles and sell-out gig status status of both Cornershop and Urusei Yatsura.

Something to celebrate now, one would think, but Urusei Yatsura vocalist/guitarist Graham Kemp is distinctly underwhelmed by their singeing of the top 40 with the teentastic guitar pop of "Hello Tiger". "I don't think anyone noticed, it's like, big deal," he dismisses casually. "It was number 39, so we thought, oh well, never mind. We actually either want total failure or total success - nothing in between for us. If the single had been a total disaster or number one we would have been happy, because that's something to kick against or celebrate. We have a death or glory attitude."

A couple of years back, the Scottish band's singles - mangled melodies punctuated by the sound of toy guns, obsessions of Japanese culture - could be found on a number of poor but devoutly independent record labels. By contrast, in January, the band could be found at the Cannes music biz schmoozathon conference MIDEM, being slapped on the back by new fan, cabinet minister Chris Smith. But it wasn't so much mixing with the industry "dogs walking around on their hind legs" that got the band out there so much as the sunshine. "No way did those people want to hear the kind of music we play, they didn't have a clue. Most people were there for the cocaine and the free champagne. It was a weird experience but how many of those can you have?" The new album Slain By Urusei Yatsura is a mixture of aggression, glitter-pop and joyous metal, a melodic struggle over whether to rock out or to be even more kitsch than the Spice Girls.

Plus, they were mad as hell. "We were tired of being seen as some lame indie swindie band. This record is much angrier than the others; we had a grudge against the world, and wanted people to pay! I suppose it is more acceptable in some ways - just the appearance of professionalism makes people pay attention a bit more."

But the ultimate dream, the one that keeps pop music alive, beats on in Graham's heart. "I still look for the Holy Grail, want to write that song that gives you that ultimate thrill. For me, music is a thrill, gives you the shakes, has you dancing and screaming."

Hanover Grand, W1 (0171-629 0049) 12 Mar

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