Review: Kids on the hop

Asian Dub Foundation Shepherd's Bush Empire
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Even with their hard-edged diatribe and faux-combat attire, ADF just don't look mean enough. They run all over the stage, bumping into each other and giggling like toddlers in a giant playpen. Rapper Master D doesn't look a day over 14 while bassist Dr Das (Master D's ex-music teacher), despite valiant attempts to look mysterious, is the kindly father-figure, overseeing the events to make sure his charges don't run out of control. And let's face it, The Clash, to whom they are forever compared, wouldn't have been seen dead lending a helping hand at the local community centre, as this lot are known to do.

ADF have been stumbling around the small venue circuit for years, submerged in the mire of self-proclaimed "radical" crusty, stompy, and tiresomely shouty bands. They finally rose to fame last year when Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie hailed them as the best band in the country and took them on tour as their support. They also hogged the limelight at this year's Brat Awards, their Anglo-Asian sound providing a refreshing change to the hackneyed Britpop billing.

Their raw energy, generally lost on their record releases, is set to scorch the crowd who seem confused as to whether they should be bouncing to the break beats or moshing to the crunching guitars. This manic hybrid of punk, hip-hop, jungle and bhangra defies definition; suffice to say that it is enough to make Public Enemy look complacent and the Prodigy seem positively sedate.

While some of the song titles have a ring of naivity about them, the cliches are lessened by the furious force and focus of their delivery, their tumultuous set tackling their grievances one by one. "Naxalite" remembers the peasant uprising in 1960s Bengal while the rallying "Free Satpal Ram" refers to their long and well-documented campaign to release a 32-year-old Asian man, imprisoned after defending himself against a racist attack. Demonstrating that this is more than muso-politico chic, we are invited to sign the petition before we leave. "Take the power" bellows rapper Master D, pointing at the crowd accusingly as he paces up and down, while his cohort Sun-J jogs on the spot breathlessly as if stuck on a treadmill. Man-on-the-decks Pandit G craves attention from the back, happily leaping about as if attached to a live wire, while miraculously keeping a finger on the turntable. "Let's dance on the grave of Enoch Powell," shouts Master D as he (still grinning) raises a finger to humanity in general and launches into the next political tirade, "Hypocrite".

They finally give credence to the "Dub" in their name as they pay a touching tribute to the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with an earth-shattering remix of "Taa Deem". The tempo is lowered, giving rise to a bowel-moving bassline that is gracefully overlaid with sitars and the distant rattle of a jungle rhythm.

ADF have a busy schedule ahead of them, proselytising to the doped-out hordes at the summer festivals. But their militant rumpus is enough to jolt the most apolitical out of their cotton-wool complacency. And they deserve to be heard, both politically and musically.

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