Benicassim International Festival : Benicassim, Spain

The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Basement Jaxx, Orbital, Belle & Sebastian and more play Spain's biggest summer festival...

Lowgold’s urban ditties bode well in the early afternoon of the first day of Benicassim. A brief trawl through this year’s

‘Just Backward of Square’ LP sees ‘Golden Ratio’, ‘Open the Airwaves’ and a bouncy, bouncy ‘Counterfeit’ fished out to lift a few bedsit spirits and commence the theme of the three day weekend: big, psychedelic, super furry,

rock-out finales.

If the opening bars of ‘The Second Line’ make you forget punk rock ethics and head for the jeans stall, you may have already heard of Clinic. Liverpool’s pseudo anti-establishment boppers light up the FiberFib stage in full-on battle attire, a la NHS, but instigate nothing more than a bar queue. Tahiti 80’s upbeat chill floats out of the PA like a welcome blast of air to combat the 40 degrees outside the tent. Xavier Boyer et al fuse festival tactics (see poor Spanish, jumping around and Nicky Wire high kicks) with a simplicity of melody usually favoured by one Serge Gainsbourg.

Etienne de Crecy is up and makes it clear that he’s definitely not into long, Mogwai finales. The Parisian hard house behemoth of loud,

yet subtle techno favours short, sharp blasts of solid-edged futurism, whilst remaining ever wise in the fine art of karmic readjustment and post-house. On the other side of the electro-coin come Ladytron’s Daniel, Reuben, Mira and Helen. Ladytron make monotone drone and pop kids swoon, without straying far from the ‘604’ LP – a distinctly Neu-style European sound after conquering Japan as DJs.

However far a festival comes in combining the newest tendencies, there’s nothing like a good slice of Americana and three-bar rockers like Big Star. Alex Chilton is looking as bad as ever as he opens his rapidly-yellowing mouth (his excessive smoking is stuff of festival legend) to let forth an hour of some of the most beautiful, simple and timeless pop ever written. ‘The Letter’ gets an expected rendition, as does the majority of ‘Third’. A moment to cherish for the appreciative evening crowd.

‘Wandering Alone’ is among the handful of new tunes showcased by Belle And Sebastian on their first Iberian show for too many years. An over-capacity, over-excited crowd is treated to a twelve-strong Glasgow army, whose forte comes with the ‘Legal Man’ single and an hour of breezy art school epics for our late era of suburban romance and sitcom sentimentality.

A huge Snowflake (Barcelona’s famous white Ape) looms over Basement Jaxx‘s Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe as they kick off a furious and dynamic drive-by of Brazilian and Indian beats, vocals and dancers. For a mixed festival crowd, the Jaxx take every scrap and sample from their studio floor and fed

it right into the mixing desk. ‘Jus One Kiss’, ‘Where’s Your Head At’ and the hooligan beats of ‘Broken Dream’ come out – all as inexplicable as they are inescapably rocking. Orbital also have this deal well wrapped up. Closing the main stage bill is easy money for the brothers Hartnoll. Newer material – like ‘Funny Break (One Is Enough)’ – aired here is less-obvious and less E-friendly, though the listener expecting some Orbital nostalgia or, have mercy, some earlier romp through British electro, is not disappointed with ‘Impact’, ‘Satan’ and ‘Chime’ getting worthy renditions, even after all this time.

What the new Mercury Rev album would’ve sounded like under the ill-fated

hand of Jack Nitzsche will unfortunately remain unsolved, and what ‘All Is Dream’ sounds like at all is still anyone’s guess as even on the eve of the release, the Rev stick to almost a full ‘Deserter’s Songs’ set, with only a couple of newies thrown in. Also on the dead horse tip are the Flaming Lips, whose ‘Soft Bulletin’ show

finds Wayne more and more theatrical every time the confetti and fake blood come out. The accompanying visuals have changed, but the songs are as eternal as ever. We get sexy aerobic girls on the big screen dancing to ‘Superman’ and the Telly Tubbies bouncing to a backdrop of ‘A Spoonful Weighs A Ton’ and ‘Race For the Prize’. The psychedelic madness perfectly sums up Benicassim

James Pearse