Flipside review, 1 June 1999

Venini/Experimental Pop Band
Wag Club, London

Venini, the new musical venture from Pulp's Russell Senior, look cool. Seriously cool. Lead singer Debbie Lime (the name alone begs major stardom) is well on the way to perfecting the ultimate, studiedly lazy, disdainful pop sneer, peering out from under her banana-highlighted fringe with the attitude of a Debbie Harry-to-be. Her instrument-strumming companions share her vision of style, even if they can't quite decide which particular fashion to plump for. There's black suits and skinny ties as well as leather jackets and expensively messied jet-black hair, all bound up by the most naturalistic punk pop posing since the Manic's first pillow trashing gigs. Best of all, the music fits; sparky, spiky, instantly memorable pop that swaggers between Elastica's punk wet dreams, The Pet Shop Boys and Giorgio Moroder. They will go far.

Then come cult Bristolian headliners Experimental Pop Band, a very different fishy kettle. Reputation has them as subtle purveyors of inside-outed indie pop. The reality somewhat flunks. Looking distinctly, averagely check-shirt-blokey (in that musically sensitive, but not-too eccentric/Morrissey-as-normal-human-being type way), the Band pootle earnestly through their set. It's not that they're not keen, it's just that this isn't a particularly inspiring performance; they don't really give it any. The songs, minor Cast-covering-Stereolab affairs, do nothing to aid them. Although the dour-on-record 'Punk Rock Classic' gains some previously unheard repetetive Krautrock kick and newie 'Casual Sex' has a viciously homely bite to it, there are precious few pop hooks (or, for that matter, 'experiments') sharp enough to ensnare your undivided attention nor, indeed, that of the dwindling, Camden market fashion-victim audience. A disappointment.

Robert Heller