Zoot Woman / Stazi - Manchester Roadhouse - 29.10.03

It's been right under my nose for the well over a year and yet I never been to one of the legendary Chips With Everything bashes. It's a Manc thing. We're great believers in the art of hype and barely a week goes by without whisperings of the best new band or club night in the city. Of course sometimes they're shooting themselves in the foot because as the hype machine works overdrive there's a group of stubborn b*stards like myself that will not join the party. But hands up, I got it wrong, Chips With Everything is the Best Club Night i've been to since the legendary Boomselection Night during this year In The City. Obscure cheesy electro pop, a touch of PIL and chunks of hip hop - you can't beat it!!!

What do you get if you mix cheap casio keyboard, low rent glamour courtesy of the Pulp School of fashion, Rowetta from the Happy Mondays, a gimp, a Guns N Roses sample and a love of Northern Soul? Manchester's best kept secret Stazi. "Put Your Loving Arms" and "Love Is Lethal" are already destined to be classic moments (along with Johnny Dangerously legendary tune which no remembers the name of) when the Northern Quarter unearths a Time Capsule 100 years from now.

Zoot Woman have the odds stacked against them from the start after the madness of Stazi, but they soldier on oblivious to what's preceded them. While the first album "Living In A Magazine" followed on from Jacques Le Conts Les Rhythm Digitales project it seems that the self titled follow up has only attracted attention due to Stuart Price (aka Jacques Le Conts) being Madonna's musical director on her world tour. It's a big step to come down from, but Price has always been one of those true frontmen regardless of the stage (and in Zoot Woman's case regardless of whether he is the actual frontman). Minimal keyboards are deployed in favour of power chords and his trademark bass slapping. The problem is though that like their suits it's all style and no substance - "Living In A Magazine", "You And I" and "It's Automatic" are fine pop songs in theory, but it's all too studied and there's none of the celebration or joy that the bands they seek to play tribute to had by the bucketful. Pop can be highly calculated and fun, just look at many of the Romo bands or even a band like Bobby from Sweden, but Zoot Woman take the fun out of pop by being too mathematical and too structured.

Alex McCann

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