Twisted Tenderness

This, in the credibility void of 1999, is the way the comeback begins: not with a bang but with your entire new album played in full to a shoebox crammed with coked-out-of-their-brains industry who

There is such a thing as being a little too intimate. WOW! You can see the singer without the use of the Hubble telescope! COO! You can shout requests and he’ll actually hear them before telling you to piss off! But GAG! CHOKE! SPLUTTER! Jesus Christ! What is that hideous stench? Is someone in here wearing Eau De Stale Scouser or did rock just crawl behind the drum riser to die?

“We can SMELL YOU!” yells a man at the front, nose wrinkled, cheeks rapidly turning green.

“Yeah?” replies John Power, leaning over the front row and taking a hearty sniff. “Well you fuckin’ stink an’ all.”

This, in the credibility void of 1999, is the way the comeback begins: not with a bang but with your entire new album played in full to a shoebox crammed with coked-out-of-their-brains industry whores. [a]Kula Shaker[/a] at the 100 Club, Stereophonics at a BBC studio in Golders Green, Suede at the Hop & Grape, Blur in a potting shed in Staines: they’re hyped as ‘event gigs’, as wanting to see the whites of the true devotees’ eyes before buggering off to headline 15 festivals before breakfast.

How humble, eh? How benevolent, how selfless, how very special of them. Ah, they really do care about the little people.

Like bollocks they do. The truth is they know their new material is piddling elephant’s cack of the sloppiest hue and they want to dredge up some mystique by only letting 13 of their mates and Steve Lamacq hear it at a time. Still, them’s the rules and, heaven knows, haw haw, you wouldn’t find a bunch of terminal herd followers like Cast doing anything original now, would you…?

And so it comes to pass once more that we squish A&R toecaps underfoot and listen to some very famous men play the New Ones. But, hang on, these New Ones are good. ‘Compared To You’ takes the theme from the World Snooker Championships and twists it into chunky triple-harmonied power pop. ‘Dreamer’ finds technology creeping into John Power‘s Luddite musical vision in the form of the intro from Ride‘s ‘Leave Them All Behind’.

And having blatantly flaunted the ‘All New Songs Must Be Rubbish’ mandate they go on to crucify their cool by daring to play The Old Ones. Yes, roll over Mr Albarn and tell Our Jarvo the news, they do ‘Finetime’! And ‘Alright’! And ‘Sandstorm’ and ‘Guiding Star’ and ‘Flying’ and ‘Be Mine’ and enough janglesome Britbeat classics to make the whole event worth starving yourself of oxygen for an hour to witness.

What’s galling about Cast is that they’re blind to their own disfigurements. John Power has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to say beyond some vague spiritual gubbins about freeing your mind and feeling the love while flying high in the sky on a magic pie blah-de-blah. Yet there he stands, preaching his hollow hippy evangelism like a sermon from Mount Gushmore.

Like fellow dadrock refugees [a]Kula Shaker[/a], Cast have taken the ’70s prog musical route out of Britpop – the Kulas do The Knights Of The Round Table, Cast do Godspell. ‘Hideaway’ is so bolstered with saviour-in-desert bombast that you expect church bells and bagpipes at the end and guitarist Skin is only a crown of thorns away from a healthy career as a Jesus-O-Gram.

Cast are, of course, as retro as pterodactyl hunting. Songs like ‘Finetime’ and ‘Alright’ guzzle deep of the trucker dust blown from the wheels of Free‘s ‘Alright Now’. But Cast are about celebration rather than mere emulation: these are thermonuclear blasts from the past, not whimpers from the blinkered. They capture the adrenalin rush of the music they adore, rather than just roping in a gospel choir, howling some shite about wizards and buggering off to count the cash.

When they come to write the Britrock history books for the 1990s, Hurricane #1 will be a footnote, Seahorses might merit a paragraph, but there’ll be a whole chapter devoted to tonight. “Let’s hear it for the Cast lads,” shouts a voice amid the stamping for an encore that never comes. “HIP-HIP!”

The stench has strangely evaporated. Welcome to the Refined Times…