(Pic: Dear Eskiimo)
MTV Hits Spanking New - Manchester University - 13.4.05

When A1 split up a few years back, pop was left with a huge hole to fill. They may not have been the biggest boy band of the time, but they were certainly the best and held all the perquisite's for the world of pop as we now know it. They wrote their own songs (bar the atrocious cover of "Take On Me") and played their own instruments. In fact when they split after their serious rock influenced 3rd album "Make It Good", they in turn set the template for Busted and McFly as much as the Dum Dums did.

By the sizeable crowd down the front, Ben Adams has clearly not been forgotten. For those of you not versed in the world of pop he was the cute ickle one with curtains and if tabloid rumours are to be believed a sizeable package (Big Ben - we see the headlines now). Now with a new haircut and less of the baby fat he's back as a serious artist - a better looking Jamie Cullum, a white Lemar or a male Natasha Bedingfield if you like. The songs on first listen sound like fellow Sony BMG white soul boy Jamie Scott, all funky guitar riffs, brass stabs and soaring string sections. The highlights are the nursery rhyme pop of "Destination Rendezvous", a classic A1 style ballad in the form of "I Don't Want To Stay" and "Get Off My Girl" which features Ben rapping over a tune not dissimilar to Madonna's "Hanky Panky". This time next year Ben Adams is either gonna be absolutely huge or he's gonna end up as a UK version of JC Chasez - releasing a great pop album that the public just don't get.

The first time we witnessed Dear Eskiimo they were playing in a punk venue in the heart of Manchester's red light district dodging chav's with flick knives along the way. A brave move for a band who record in a barn, grow their own vegetables and search for gold in the fields of Wigan. Fronted by future FHM Babe of The Year, Katie White, who plays up to the lolita image so much at some point she's gonna have to spurn the advances of crinkly old Peter Stringfellow, Michael Douglas and Bill Wyman as well as a generation of teenage boys tired of Britney and Xtina. She toys with her hair through the likes of "Patience" (a song which MTV ask Dear Eskiimo play twice due to overwhelming demand), "Don't Wanna Feel" (Stuck In The Middle meets Hey Ya"), "Joe" and "Jack & Jill" (two modern day nursery rhymes with a dark underside). Lesser journalists will compare them to the Scissor Sisters, as they do anyone who doesn't conform to 4 white males with guitars playing schmindie music, but for us Dear Eskiimo are in a world of their own.

Dante of El President comes across as a Casanova lothario come to deflower virgins with his seductive pop tunes. The fact that he used to be in Scottish rock band Gun is almost irrelevant as El Presidente will almost certainly eclipse them. The rest of the band are equally as alluring with the bassist providing eyecandy for the girls in a Rachel Stamp kind of way and the girls on synths and drums give the band an indie Abba feel. It's the music that counts though. "Rocket" with it's glam rock stomp, the soaring soul of "Without You" and the next single "100 Mph". How Kasabian fans will react to the band when they support them on their UK tour later this month is anyone's guess, but their eclectic pop is infectious.

After such an amazing start in was inevitable at some point the gears would shift down. Lady Sovereign is a much more interesting proposition than Goldie Lookin Chain or The Streets and has spent the past few years battling through the predicament of being both white and female in the hip hop world. Hailed by some as the Queen Of Chav tonight she showed that she's half way there with tracks such as "Random", but there's still some way to go.

Like Keane and Athlete flourished while Coldplay were AWOL, Jem looks set to fill Dido's shoes for the next twelve months. It's the sort of coffee table ambience of Moby's "Play" rather than plodding Radio 2, but you have to question how the sibling of Weapons Of Mass Belief's JG and Georgia ended up on such a journey. It's these sort of questions that ultimately are a lot more interesting than the music itself, which says a lot really.

Alex McCann

MTV Hits Spanking New airs the W/C 18th April
Also check out the MTV Base and MTV2 Spanking New shows as well
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