Rock: The Bon Jovi of the rehab clinic

Acclaimed in some quarters as a masterpiece, Dust (Epic), the latest album by the Screaming Trees, is not a life-changing, mould-breaking record, but it does have an unusual quality, and for a while I couldn't put my finger on it. Then I realised. That unusual quality was ... quality. Here we have a Seattle band who were caught up in the grunge maelstrom, and yet they haven't copied Nirvana; they haven't gone messy and lo-fi, or rootsy and acoustic, or cartoony and dumb; they haven't descended into the grinding ponderousness of heavy metal, or got lost amid the absurd excesses of prog rock. Their eighth album (probably the first they remember making, bearing in mind their recently curtailed drug intake) is a well- produced collection of intense, melodic rock anthems that is not vitiated by an urge to be either mainstream or alternative. The Trees have bloomed into the Bon Jovi of the rehab clinic.

Likewise, their show at the London Astoria on Thursday didn't redefine rock concerts as we know them, but it had plenty to recommend it: Gary Lee Conner's skidding wah-wah guitar heroics, for instance, and the raw power of Barrett Martin's drumming. His inexplicable ability to switch in the blink of an eye between pummelling the bongos with his hands and the snare with his drumsticks suggests a future in conjuring if this rock'n'roll business doesn't work out. Leather-trousered lead growler Mark Lanegan slouched at the mike-stand all evening, a moodily handsome cross between Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose.

And now, a tale of two brothers. We'll call them the G Brothers. Northern city-boys, bushy eyebrows, wear Adidas. They form a band, make propulsive, guitary rock'n'roll that blends the Beatles, Status Quo and their own vague philosophical slogans. And then, just as they're getting somewhere, Oasis come along and steal their thunder. You have to feel sorry for The Real People.

In their case, the G stands for Griffiths, not Gallagher; and they hail from Liverpool, not Manchester. But if those Oasis parallels jump out and bite your nose, it's no coincidence. Years ago, when the Real People supported the Inspiral Carpets on tour, they became friendly with the Inspirals' roadie, a young chap named Noel. The brothers Griffiths (Chris, vocals/guitar; Tony, bass) helped him record some demos, only to learn that Noel's songs were that little bit better, he and his brother that big bit better-looking, their record company that enormous bit more supportive. Oasis ended up having a passionate love affair with the record- buyers of Britain. The Real People were left behind.

On Tuesday, the robust four-piece opened at the Hammersmith Palais for Ocean Colour Scene, and, resembling brickies even more than the main attraction do, they staked their claim as the true godfathers of the new-mod, bloke- rock fraternity. "Think that Cast have got anything we haven't?" they seemed to ask. Try the brash riff of "Bring You Down". Ocean Colour Scene? Look no further than "Rayner's Lane" (OCS's Steve Craddock even joined in on piano). Oasis? Listen to "The People in the Telly", "Rolling Stone" and any other you care to name.

Their forthcoming album, What's On the Outside (Granite), should be guaranteed healthy sales. But whether they end up as anything more than an historical curiosity, a footnote in the Oasis story, is another matter. They're not getting any younger, or any better-looking, and who needs Bill Haley when Elvis Presley is already a star?

For a good laugh, the band to see this week was Tindersticks. True, they specialise in dusky chansons that would have Leonard Cohen sticking his head in the oven, but on Wednesday there was some unexpected comic relief. The etiolated Stuart Staples was, as usual, lolling like a marionette with half its strings missing, in a breeze. The glockenspiel, organ and violin were brewing a murky, menacing fog all around him. And in the midst of the mumbled monologue that is "My Sister", somewhere between the bit about blinding and the bit about paralysis, he stopped, his voice shot up an octave, his hand shot to his cheek, and he squeaked: "I've forgotten it!"

Tindersticks were in residence at the ICA in London for a week, playing a different set every night: a dream come true for their fans, but a nightmare for whoever had the job of timetabling the band's rehearsals. They should have scheduled a few more: on Wednesday, the band's mistakes kept draining away the atmosphere just as it was getting to where it should have been. The layers of orchestration and the spoken delivery were reminiscent of Pulp, but more reminiscent of what would be left of Pulp once you'd sucked out all of their glamour and humour. And does Staples know that when he tries to croon like Bryan Ferry, he sounds more like Vic Reeves doing a song in the "club style" on Shooting Stars?

Screaming Trees: Bristol Bierkeller (0117 926 8514), Mon; Northampton Roadmenders (01604 604603), Wed; Reading Alleycat (01734 588889), Tues. The Real People: Loughborough Univ (01509 217766), Thurs; Ilford Island (0181 514 4400), Fri; Warwick Univ (01203 417220), Sat.

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