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CUD - Asquarius (A&M/All formats)

27 June 1992 New Musical Express - Page 41

WHEN CARL Puttnam sings "I'm fat but l know where it's at" during the ravishing pop spell that is 'Rich And Strange', you know that all is right in this part of the world, it's spunky, it's cheeky, it gives off the same fundamentally right, reassuring vibe of a hometown lock-in, an old, shared joke, a favourite jacket. This, you think, is someone you could prop up a bar with, not some soft druggy pranny who thinks he can fly and believes in the lost city of Atlantis and the aliens in his toaster.

Cud don't believe they can fly. They know it's aerodynamically impossible. They don't believe themselves to be emissaries of a forbidden, higher consciousness or the earthly crucible of the departed spirit of Jim Morrison. In short, they aren't twats. Just funny. gifted, rum. sorted hipsters with a tight grip on the short hairs of the pop imagination. they're fat but they know where it's at. They play some of the best pop rock in town and play it with gusto and joie de vivre that offends the sensibilities of those delicate pensive flowers who think large, boisterous people have no part in rock. Apart from Tad.

Cud are hated by people who fancy themselves a bit, who see themselves above this wayward, grandiloquent ass-kick party. Cud fancy themselves too, but with good reason. They're cute, sexy, a little eccentric but not wacky, down to earth but not prosaic. They're not sulkers. They're grown-ups. They're big kids too. And that's what makes 'em priceless. 'Rich And Strange'. Now there's a bloody song. Three and a half minutes. Might have been the best three and a half minutes but for St Etienne and Suede and L7. Punchy, capable, flirty. Great keening guitar hook like the call of a glam rock curlew. An impeccable sense of sharp fun. No 'Stretch it out for ten minutes, make the kids believe we're prophets'. Just the gleaming template of a pop thrill. Three and a half minutes.

'Easy'. Bah, Bah, Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba. Too late. You're in the middle of the road. Huge tyre tracks across your inanely smiling face. Don't try to get up, as they say on Casualty. This is a cruel and adamanthine song, which proves that Cud can be imperious titan warlords as well as your top chums. Grunge with a sense of fun. Somewhere between Metallica and Blur, which is a terrific place to be.

For a band who became synonymous with tiny, obscurantist indiedom, 'Asquarius' is an unreconstructed rock blow-out. Bootleg the riff from 'Brown Sugar' on an illegal North Country still. Serve chilled with a piquant melodic interlude. And voila! 'Sometimes Right'. Raunch with a paunch and a greasy Ferry quiff. 'Magic Alex' is a so-so R&B romp with some excellent drug code lyrics. Also full marks for sneaking the word 'circumspect' into a song. Cud's warped affection for British pop's illustrious past manifests itself a couple of times here. Firstly on the lively, knowing 'Pink Flamingo', where various girls make cameos including one 'blonde like a strawberry', and on the excellent 'Soul Food' which could be Manfred Mann during an inappropriate punk rock phrase, mad harmonica to the fore. And there's more rock! 'Possession could have slipped on to The White Album' in a parallel universe; a bloody and ragged tour de force given percussive clout by The Drummer From Cud, no less (odd that- Ed). And some flailing, psychotic guitars. And some great singing from Carl. Which reminds me. Only in a world where we have grown used to the lamest excuses for singing would Carl's extravagant and individualistic baritone seem unusual. I mean, that Ian Brown's got a lot to answer for. Don't you just want to get that lad from Verve and give him a raw steak and some vodka?

Two exceptionally good things here. One, 'Spanish Love Song': big, juicy, acoustic minor sevenths crowding round an impish bass figure and a great line: "I want to steal a crimson kiss from between your terrible lips.' And there's the extremely unzany 'Once Again', a bruised, blue-smoke ballad throwing conceptual feelers out everywhere; chiming guitars, miniaturised blues solo and an entirely unexpected string section that drops in through the ceiling to spectacular effect.

So welcome to Lion Pop. The sort of pop we forgot how to make for a while but we're learning again. High-octane, heavy on personality, low on head-trip crackerbarrel mysticism. Brazen, life-affirming, multi-limbed. l would say welcome to rubies rather than rabbit-droppings, gold dust father than guano, but who but a sad man would make such comparisons? Get this record bought and stop fannying about, you nonces.


Stuart Maconie