A decade rummaging around in Stereolab’s slipstream, releasing the odd single on the odd label, mostly numerical (Fugu 1 etc – like Led Zeppelin, only better; or like Chicago, only not as good); a debut album five years ago on For Us was a disappointment, failing in its mission to be an ‘idiosyncratic baroque sequel to "Sgt Pepper" meeting "Smile" and meant to be made in perfect 60's facsimile.’
This year, though, one-man band Mehdi Zannad raised the stakes. He wrote the songs Paul McCartney forgot to in 1967 (c’mon, just imagine Sgt Pepper without 64 or Rita Maid and think what could’ve been), recreated the urgent, irresistible power pop of the Raspberries and touched on the gauche melancholia of Neil Young on After The Goldrush to stride the world of popular music like a colossus of Smile harmonies and baroque, electronic grandeur, establishing Fugu as quite possibly the greatest act working in popular music today.
Last Thursday, Fugu’s gig at the Luminaire confirmed them in my mind as the most spectacular band currently operating. Mehdi has assembled a band who combine breathless magic with a surplus of showbusiness for your entertainment pound.
The guitarist looks like Robert Vickers in 1986, a 15-year-old mod in the world’s best band, with hair so healthy he might just have stepped out of a shampoo commercial. It’s not often I’d watch extended guitar wig outs happily, but they were played with such gleeful abandon, hair-tossing exuberance and compulsive majesty I very nearly walked into my newsagents the next morning and bought a subscription to Guitar World. The drummer – and I don’t usually notice drummers – was magnificent (I could’ve watched him alone for hours); and the bassist redressed the balance as the surly one.
When they left, I left, too. Monade were headlining and while I’ve nothing against them, no-one could follow that (just like seeing Pulp supporting St Etienne 13 years ago, you could only feel sorry for St Etienne and then wonder why they didn’t just surrender and say ‘we lost tonight’). I left on a high. A week later, I can still feel the adrenaline.
There is, predictably, a downside. Current single ‘Morning Sun’ is pretty much a direct copy of Neil Young’s Till The Morning Comes. If you go to http://www.myspace.com/fugumusic. don’t think it representative of Fugu’s wonder.