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Pop: The avenue to follow in '98

Five unassuming lads, with an interest in all sorts of music. That's The Montrose Avenue. But don't think that they are boringly `muso' - their specialty is the glorious two-minute pop song. Tim Perry meets them

This is the traditional season of speculation regarding tipped new bands. In particular since Oasis broke, the trend has been for someone to come along and talk of world domination in a way that would make the Gallagher brothers sound humble and taciturn. Think of Embrace, who, after all their boasting, really do have to deliver to avoid wearing the eggiest faces of 1998.

In pleasant contrast stand The Montrose Avenue. They're five Londoners with an average age of 22. Last February they were signed by Columbia, have been on tour with the Jayhawks, Ben Folds Five and Silver Sun, and released a solid debut EP.

"We couldn't have asked for anything better. I put it down to meeting up with the right people," says the modest Scott James, one of The Montrose Avenue's three guitarist/singer/songwriters who share lead vocals and team up for gorgeously effective three-part harmonies.

It's the middle of the Christmas party season when I meet up with him. Instead of whooping it up as a proto-pop star he's in Hampstead's ultra- smart Air Studios working on the debut album, due out in spring. "I'm not really missing anything. We've been so involved in recording we don't think about all this popularity stuff. Right now we really aren't thinking about expectations or pressure which is nice so we can get on with what we're doing."

If that sounds dull or "muso", bear in mind that The Montrose Avenue's exuberant gigs are what have set most tongues in gear. They, er, embrace a very "now" brand of tuneful pop but you also know that they've listened to and loved the sounds of the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Jayhawks and a whole slew of other melodic American bands.

"Everyone in the band listens to different stuff, from psychedelia to The Prodigy. It surprises me when people don't have such broad interests. If they make music for a living, then you'd think that they would investigate more than one style of it." Discussion then turns to Scott's love of the two-minute song, as exemplified by the belting "She's Looking For Me" off their EP. "Two-minute songs are straight to the point and not self- indulgent. If you can do what you want to do in two minutes then why not? A lot of the time I wish stuff was shorter."

Speaking of songs, about four years ago, Scott wrote one called The Montrose Avenue. "We thought it sounded good as a name for a band so we stuck with it. There are five Montrose Avenues in London. That's one for each member of the band. I lived on one once, actually make that that we all lived on them and met up in a pub called the Montrose. Honest." Rather healthily, that's as far as The Montrose Avenue go in self-hype.

The Montrose Avenue + Slot Jockey + User (NME `ON' Night): Barfly Club at the Falcon (0171-485 3834); 8 Jan