Pop: Two-minute wonders
Saturday 23 May 1998
Thankfully, other places like our own Oxford just get on and do things - and the best ambassador of the local scene is the Shifty Disco label, started up by a few local promoters, journalists and other types who hang around the Point venue. Shifty Disco started what's believed to be the first CD singles club in the world, in January 1997, and have since put out 17 singles in various different musical styles. Their second release came from introspective Abingdon-based The Unbelievable Truth. Within weeks they were signed by Virgin and are on many people's tipsheets as one of the bands to break through this year.
However, the very first Shifty Disco release was a more upbeat affair by a local trio called Dustball, who pack punchy powerchords, rich melody and rampaging rhythm into two-minute numbers. Think Ramones versus Undertones or Fugazi versus Superchunk and you'll be on the right wavelength.
Dustball are the first band to have an album released on Shifty Disco - a whole 34 minutes of punk-power pop. The band's bassist, 20-year-old Tarrant Anderson, talks fondly of the Oxford music scene, a community that has had little or nothing to do with Britpop. "The reason why we and a lot of other Oxford bands are pleased with the whole Shifty Disco thing is to do with the apathy towards a lot of new bands from some of the major labels. I think personally we've suffered quite a bit at their hands and I know other Oxford bands have as well. We've been led up the garden path a few times and forced to spend money on legal bills and then told to clear off.
"It's nice to put out albums, but Dustball was all about gigging for a number of years and I suppose it still is, because when you do a really good gig that's the reason to do it rather than anything else. I don't think you'll see us becoming a studio band."
Anderson defends the relatively short length of their Quality But Hers album (which comes in a nice little limited-edition grey sphere) saying, "All of our songs are very short and it's not through planning, it's just the way they turned out. So we thought there was no point in labouring the point." Well, it didn't do the Ramones any harm.
Inquisitive Londoners can tune into the Oxford sound at the upcoming Shifty Disco night in Camden. As well as Dustball, the bill also includes two other bands featured on recent Shifty Disco singles club releases: Kilter, a sonic mood outbreak and loud, fast 16-year-olds, Crackout.
Dustball + Kilter + Crackout: Barfly Club at the Falcon, NW1 (0171-485 3834) 26 May
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