London Brixton Academy

"Hhdfgefuckguihrfuckfjd," is what [B]Huey[/B] and the boys mostly seem to be shouting...

Unusually for a gig in south London, tonight starts with palm trees, surfers and bikinis. This is Maui Homicide 2000, Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ self-starring 20-minute film and a spectacular act of indulgence that swiftly discards the notion they may be feeling a tad downcast after being dropped by their US label. Essentially a celluloid gumbo of the[a]Beastie Boys[/a] ‘Sabotage’ video, Hawaii Five-0 and Tarantino, sunny views of Maui roll by and so, inexorably, do big guns, hard drugs and tropicana fashion.

Huge cheers ring out as the on-screen Huey burrows nose-first into a bulging bag of cocaine, in contrast to the bemusement that figures through most of the movie, thanks to the Academy’s sound system turning the dialogue to pulp. “Hhdfgefuckguihrfuckfjd,” is what Huey and the boys mostly seem to be shouting.

“Stick ’em up punk/It’s the Fun Lovin’ Criminals!”. Ah, now we can hear them. Post-flick, FLC fly out of the blocks like Noo Yawkers racing for the last yellow cab in town and soon are buzzing impressively through ‘Korean Bodega’, making better use of their rap and mild metal formula than you’d think possible. At this point, the oft mysterious issue of what kind of people make the gargantuan leap from liking FLC enough to turn them up on the radio, to actually shelling out to see them, doesn’t seem so puzzling. After all, FLC are shredding through the thrashed blues and wailing sirens of ’10th Street’, manhandling the blood’n’gore lyrics of ‘Sugar’, with pure entertainment their number one aim. Indeed, for a good 15 minutes they linger close to essential.

Yet, sad to say, despite a fair yield of medium-sized hits, FLC still lack the firepower to cruise effortlessly through an entire gig. The featherweight funk twang of ‘I’m Going To Heaven’ hardly keeps us engrossed, nor the unclimactic cop-killer spiel of ‘The Ballad Of Larry Davis’. Ditto the bludgeoning riffola and sub-Cypress Hill rapping which crops up when they have nothing better to do.

Still, at least FLC‘s blooming disposition for the ‘Holiday Inn lounge bar thing’ isn’t explored in much detail: two things that surely don’t make for a good cocktail mix are this stolid, scruffy hall and frosted glass ez smooching. And when the music fails them, they can always fall back on their poised wise-guy routines. These include a joke about hand jobs and ham sandwiches; and FLC‘s ‘School Of Acting’, wherein Huey and a stooge mimic a scene from Carlito’s Way. Huey informs us he’s been hanging with the Beastie Boys, that he’s turned a bit Buddhist and won’t be able to shoot the guy. But it’s a shame that Huey hadn’t also picked up on some of the Beasties‘ rich vein of absurdity. Then, maybe, the UK’s favourite faux-dangerous apple pie slice of lawless Americana would have more dimensions, more staying power.

Nevertheless, thespian larks completed, FLC return to the music with renewed enthusiasm. ‘Love Unlimited’ sounds so stupidly floaty-funky it is terrific. Dedicated to women who have troublesome boyfriends, it also suggests this lot would be better served digging deeper into tainted relationships – it’s a subject they have a genuine knack for when they tackle it – and spending less time ruminating on body bags and heists.

A motorcade of hits – ‘King Of New York’, ‘Scooby Snacks’, ‘Big Night Out’ – ensure FLC leave the building on a relative high. Amid frantic moshing and all-out strobe warfare, recollections of the earlier gaping holes in the atmosphere are at least partly vaporised. As they depart to head for the nearest Hawaiian-themed bar, Huey bears a winning smile, the bright, twinkly countenance of an involuntary smoothie. Trouble is, onstage, from point A to point Z, he’s not yet got a winning band. Creases need to ironed. Then they’ll really be smooth.