London Camden Underworld

...[B]BBR[/B] are chillingly blank, an occasional guitar convulsion from [B]Haines[/B] betraying the fact this is a show...

London Camden Underworld

The Daily Mail would hate them, but it wouldn't know why. Nicely spoken, beautifully dressed, the sacred sound of Elton John singing "Goodbye, England's rose" as their intro tape - what is there not to like? Why so... nervous all of a sudden?

Black Box Recorder are, in an entirely un-Ali G style, wicked. The Talented Messrs Haines and Moore and young accomplice Sarah Nixey (such a sweet girl before she "got involved") are the kind of minace ` trois that stalks decaying prewar seaside resorts seeking sport - sybarites on the prowl, pop's own thrill-killing Leopold and Loeb.

For, after years of neglected brilliance, it seems Luke Haines has found the trigger chemistry that gratifies his desires to his best advantage. Together with dark mirror image John Moore - both wearing impeccable suits, the allure of the self-possessed and a paleness that usually accompanies the shroud-and-coffin look - he writes songs so clammily sinister you could steam open mail with them. Debut album 'England Made Me' ate through to their homeland's rotten core, but now they've decided to pick out the pips: sex, violence, net-curtain fantasies.

The delivery is, of course, immaculate, Nixey's cold, sugared voice bearing warnings from both British Dental Association and Scotland Yard, all three touched with the dispassionate stare of the clear-sighted. Fluffing the troilist a cappella that starts the singalong cruelty of 'Straight Life', sure, they laugh. But just the once.

While Pulp rifled British bedrooms with a camp flourish, or Momus choked on his own cravats, BBR are chillingly blank, an occasional guitar convulsion from Haines betraying the fact this is a show. It's a jaded palette they paint with - motorway grey, wet countryside green, the sick headache red of lust - but used with such wit and commitment, it's never merely draining. 'The Art Of Driving' sees Moore playing the instructor, Nixey the pupil, in a metaphorical juggernaut they make purr like a Jaguar. The trisexual 'Sex Life' - metaphor be hanged! - seems to have been dug out of a bottom-drawer suburban porn collection, Nixey intoning "girl on bus, girl on tube, brush against you..." over nylon-shirted, business-hotel disco, while 'The Facts Of Life' details England's wet dreaming, highly educational on the subject of boyish urges, highly unsettling as you watch three grown adults sigh "I'll let you hold my hand" over a tune that's basically 'Never Ever' led astray at the bus stop.

Ideologically dodgy? God, on so many levels. Yet as a superb example of the art of the Bad Man, it's a gleeful thrill. Goodbye, England's deadly nightshade. Your goodwill burnt out long ago. Your evil never will.

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