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London Hammersmith Palais

Lame as it is to criticise a band through their audience, the punters here speak volumes about [B]The Lightning Seeds[/B]...

London Hammersmith Palais

Lame as it is to criticise a band through their audience, the punters here speak volumes about The Lightning Seeds. The goes-to- one-gig-a-year, kids-mortgage-soul- destroying-job types are out in force tonight. That's not snobbery, it's simple reportage. But why do they love Ian Broudie so?

Songs like 'Sense', 'Life Of Riley' and 'Marvellous' are grudgingly good pop songs - technically correct, and yet too polite to ever dash the suspicion that they were bought, flat-packed, from a songwriters' Ikea. But why do Broudie's fans choose the anaemic Bontempi soap opera of The Lightning Seeds over, say, the luxuriant Hollywood sprawls of Celine, Mariah, et al?

Ultimately, The Lightning Seeds' very mildness is their selling point. When 'Life's Too Short' showcases their new, dancey direction, it's not so much the sound of Broudie (eternal nice bloke, likes footie, wears specs) necking an E as cutting his Horlicks with Pro-Plus. They are never intense, they demand nothing of you, they are pop you hum to, not exist through.

Because The Lightning Seeds belong to people who've invested too much of themselves in mortgages, careers and families to lose themselves in something as fleeting as pop music any more. They want it as the background music to their lives, rather than the soundtrack. This is pop after life has trampled all the dreams out of it, a cruel, cold eternity of making the most of things and mustn't-grumble homilies, written through a primary school rhyming dictionary. Comfort music, with the crushing monotony of life beginning again the moment the song ends.

At 10:15pm, Broudie says goodnight, and we file home. There isn't anything else to do.

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