ROCK : American ska? It's Madness

WHERE ON Earth did No Doubt spring from? One minute they're No One, and the next, before you can say "Chris Evans", their Alanis-lite single appears at No 1. Do you know anyone who bought it? Me neither.

The literal answer to the opening question is that No Doubt sprang from California, just down the road from Disneyland, hence the title of their breakthrough album, Tragic Kingdom (MCA). In the US, this record had the honour of knocking Bush's off the No 1 spot. But before you start patting them on the back, bear in mind that Gwen Stefani, No Doubt's peroxide pin-up, is the girlfriend of Bush's Gavin Rossdale, and that she is more or less his mirror image. Rossdale is a Londoner pretending to be from the American West, while Stefani is ... well, you can work it out. She grew up listening to Madness and the Specials, and she hasn't grown out of them. Not only did No Doubt slip in the refrain of "Ghost Town" at the London Astoria on Tuesday, but one of their two additional brass players wore a suit and a pork-pie hat. Stefani is a Kooky Girl who wants to be a Nutty Boy.

On the other hand, her purloining of British pop is by no means as outright as her beau's is of American. The reggae rhythms are there, but No Doubt's drummer - bleached spikes, bare chest - tends to pound them out three times too fast, while the guitarist plays buffed heavy-metal solos on his Flying V, and the bassist adopts the compulsory hardcore bass pose: one foot well in front of the other like a sprinter's on the starting blocks. No Doubt sound like Madness might have done if "Baggy Trousers" referred to knee-length surf shorts.

So, what do you get when you cross Californian punk with Camden ska? Sadly, a chips-and-custard combination. It's all very wacky for a band of tattooed LA moshers to bash out a Bad Manners song as a joke encore, but it's tiresome to hear a similar style of music for a whole set. And then there is Stefani. In a navel- displaying sequinned vest, she looks like Drew Barrymore with Madonna's stylist and Cyndi Lauper's window-shattering voice. Or else, given how cartoonish she seems, Penelope Pitstop with Tank Girl's clothes and Olive Oyl's shoes. And she performs like a stage-school girl auditioning for Annie. She rarely lowers her strangled-cat vibrato, or varies her frowning, lip-quivering moue. Add that to the macho metal guitar and you get one fantastically irritating band.

Still, the stage-school pizzazz translates into an exceptional live show. It's easy to understand the crowd's ecstatic response to a non-stop stream of upbeat songs, stocked with call-and-response routines, speaker-stack scaling, choreographed pogoing and bouquet throwing. Grudgingly, I'd have to admit that No Doubt are a decent US pop group, at a time when such a thing is an endangered species. As long as other American popsters are mass- producing sappy swingbeat, No Doubt's colourful tunes and entertainment ethic have a lot to be said for them. So, we're selling the Spice Girls to the US, the US are selling No Doubt to us. It's probably a fair swap.

Donovan's solo show at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on Wednesday was an unexpected joy. Uniquely for an original hippy, Mr Leitch is neither a catatonic treehouse dweller, nor a stockbroker who has long since donated his caftan to Oxfam. He is still Donovan. Whichever fairyland his tousled head was in during the Sixties, it's still there. And enough time has elapsed since his initial success to let him enjoy remembering it, without being embittered by its disappearance. Heartwarmingly, one of his new songs was inspired when he listened to an album made by his 18-year-old self, and thought, "God, this kid's good!"

For the audience, the discovery that the kid is still good was even more of a revelation. He started and finished with the crowd-pleasers - "Hurdy Gurdy Man", "Mellow Yellow", "Jennifer Juniper", "Season of the Witch" - and in between times he took off his shoes, folded himself into the Lotus Position, tickled his bright green acoustic guitar, and, as clouds of incense drifted by, sang some tracks from last year's comeback album, Sutras (American). His voice is disappointingly attenuated on the record, but on Wednesday it was rich and resonant, and in much better shape than Mr Dylan's.

A twinkle-eyed pixie in a Carnaby Street shirt, Donovan was a disarming host - there were moments when his happy babbling was redolent of David Helfgott in Shine - and even if you thought he was spouting New Age nonsense, he did so with such assurance and positivity that you wouldn't have wanted to disillusion him. "The Universe Am I" ("I hear the Cosmos call ... / In the silver sadness of the moon / I read a prophet rune") was an astral projection too far; otherwise, these hymns to the Goddess seemed like gentle, unpretentious offerings, or as unpretentious as you can be while setting ancient Buddhist texts to music. Kula Shaker should have been there taking notes.

I wonder if the Longpigs really are from Sheffield. Those stirring vocal harmonies have less to do with Pulp than they have with Big Country, or one of the other flag-waving Celtrock bands that used to find their way on to Scottish lager commercials. At the London Forum on Thursday, though, the Longpigs made an effective job of justifying a more desirable comparison: they are The New Radiohead (which makes their support band, Travis, The New New Radiohead). The crashing guitar noise was suitably dramatic, and Crispin Hunt - nostrils flaring, eyes that know no midpoint between popping wide open and scrunching agonisingly shut - flung his voice up and down the treble clef, howling every word.

In fact, the four-piece's debut, The Sun is Often Out (Mother), is stronger than Radiohead's was, and there is no reason why its anthems shouldn't one day fill the stadiums for which they were intended. However, the band will continue to increase in stature only if they stop their music getting too inflated. When their epic aspirations are tempered with pop immediacy, as they are on "She Said" and "On and On", the Longpigs are sublime. When Hunt allows himself to ramble meaninglessly between songs, or allows those songs to sprawl out of his control, that's when the 'Pigs become a bore.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Project Coordinator

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

    Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

    £350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

    Embedded Linux Engineer

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

    Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

    £50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz