CUD - SHOWBIZ (A&M 540211-2 12tracks/41mins/FP)
Melody Maker, April 16 1994
THE title is not entirely ironic. This is, after all, probably Cud's make-or-break album; major labels are not noted for their patience in these difficult times. The band have responded by finally forcing themselves to take this whole ridiculous business called pop just a little more seriously. "Showbiz" is easily the most polished, carefully crafted Cud record to date. Never before has Carl Puttnam, a hugely underrated singer, used his luxuriously full-bodied voice more thoughtfully; never before have more of the band's hidden depths come to light.
Like S*M*A*S*H et.al, Cud often look to the late Seventies for inspiration; but Cud are not so much New Wave Of New Wave as New Wave Of Heatwave. "I Reek Of Chic" yelps one title, and it's true. Cud recall the days when dance music and guitars weren't ever seen as mutually exclusive forces. Cud are funky, both in the viscosity of their rhythms and the charming, cheeky carnality of many of their lyrical concerns. The ungainly, bespectacled, not-exactly-pretty Puttnam has long been one of alternative pop's most unlikely sex gods; largely explained, surely, by the disarming mixture of frankness, pathos and compassion in lines like: "Take the stuffing out of your bra/It's only there to disguise how wonderful you are".
There are no purely whimsical songs on "Showbiz"; and perhaps Cud's past excesses in that direction are explained on "Sticks And Stones", where Puttnam gets idealistic with a touching awkwardness and wishes words could really make a difference. While much of "5howbiz" is Cud further refining and strengthening the formula that's taken them this far, there ore also some successful adventures well beyond what's expected. One is the sturdy but sparkling grunge-pop of "One Giant love"; another is the gorgeous epic acoustic ballad, "Tourniquet". Both "reveal that, these days, Cud ore almost as good at melodies as they are at chopping out the chunky rhythms that fill indie-club dancefloors. But is it all too late?
After the relative failure of the recent singles, you have to wonder; but after hearing "Showbiz", you also have to hope otherwise. Cud might shudder at the very idea, but here they're starting to sound mature. They shouldn't worry, and nor should any long-term admirers.
It suits them just fine.