London WC2 Talk Of London

Would anyone really have noticed if the [a]Longpigs[/a] hadn't come back? Did anyone really notice that they were gone? Questions like these are no doubt rattling around [B]Crispin Hunt[/B]'s tous

Would anyone really have noticed if the [a]Longpigs[/a] hadn’t come back? Did anyone really notice that they were gone? Questions like these are no doubt rattling around Crispin Hunt‘s tousled head as he kneels to peer into the audience – who do not jump about and cheer as at [a]Longpigs[/a] gigs past, but sit quietly at cabaret tables. To celebrate their return from two years in the wilderness, [a]Longpigs[/a] have organised a “night of entertainment”, with a ’70s disco tune-mutilating transvestite as their opening act, and free absinthe behind the bar. It’s a satisfyingly unconventional way to introduce their new album. But is it all worth it?

“We’ll be playing some new songs tonight,” Crispin announces cautiously. “They’re not the kinda thing you jump around to. They’re the kinda thing you screw to.” Indeed, the dumb, brute testosterone rush of rock’n’roll seems to have ebbed away from [a]Longpigs[/a]’ fingertips. In its place is silkily melodic, libidinous seduction. [I]”Kiss like your tongue is on fire/Suck like you don’t need my money”[/I], Crispin purrs through the Bowie-inflected glide of ‘The Frank Sonata’. And the deceivingly lulling ‘Free Toy’ is, he tells us, “about screwing and shitting”. Niiiice.

Despite all the innuendo and mirror-ball incandescence however, the [a]Longpigs[/a] remain resolutely uncharismatic. Crispin gyrates in the red spotlight like an uncomfortable lap dancer, and the band are joined unnecessarily onstage by a backing singer with Rapunzel-style ponytail and Stop Making Sense shoulderpads. It’s X-rated without the X factor, sexmusik devoid of any real chemistry.

Still, they’ve come a long way. Old songs, ‘She Said’ and ‘Jesus Cried’ seem clumsy next to the oiled eloquence of the new songs, and they’ve got a secret weapon in ‘Gangsters’ – which Crispin says is “about syphilis and numbchucks”. It starts like an arching ballad, then dissolves into a stream-of-consciousness spoken rant in which Crispin intones, heartbreakingly, “lying in the sun like a fat dog with you is worth cancer”. It is utterly, chillingly fantastic.

The [a]Longpigs[/a] may not inspire either passionate love or hate. They are still half-brilliant, half-mediocre. But, truly, it’s good to have them back.