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London Calling

What’s new in the land of Radiohead, royals, and rugby? Once again, the editors of Britain’s NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS whisk us their monthly report.

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These days British Prime Minister Tony Blair has better things to do than hang around MTV studios. But on March 7, before the bombs dropped, that’s exactly where he was, trying to convince Europe’s youth that war with Iraq was a good idea.

Since 1995, when he courted the likes of Oasis, Blur, and Pulp at election time, Blair has, more than any other PM, attempted to sway the young electorate via their entertainment icons. Yet pop stars are ornery critters, naturally resistant to manipulation by squares. So far, it’s been the mainstream, Blair-friendly stars who’ve been the most vocal against the conflict.

Ms. Dynamite (see page 8), a favorite of Blair’s camp, appeared at February’s antiwar rally in Hyde Park asking the PM, ”How will you cope with the guilt and the sea of blood which will remain on your hands?” Coldplay’s Chris Martin told the audience at the Brit Awards on Feb. 20 that ”we are all going to die when George Bush gets his way.” Blur’s Damon Albarn and Massive Attack’s 3-D have taken out two antiwar ads in NME in five months. The day Blair appeared on MTV, George Michael played Top of the Pops for the first time in 17 years to perform Don McLean’s ”The Grave” in protest. Lee Ryan of Blue, Britain’s dopey but successful boy band, has written ”Think of the People” (chorus line: ”We don’t want no world war sequel”). And, ugh, Robbie Williams has just penned ”Happy Easter (War Is Coming).”

With the majority of the U.K. publicly opposed to the war, these stars aren’t exactly sticking their necks out. Perhaps that’s why our more left-field artists remain mostly silent — there’s nothing as sexy as System of a Down’s action group Axis of Justice. The British contingent of the One Big No anti-war concert in early March in London read like a who’s who of carpet-slippers rock: Travis, Beth Orton, Paul Weller. In this company, perhaps the Uberhip, truly iconoclastic thing would have been to come out in favor of the war. The Coral, the Kills, the Libertines, where were you when your prime minister needed you?



FOUR TET — Rounds (Domino) Much admired by Radiohead (whom he’s supported on tour), Kieran Hebden is a down-tempo electronica whiz who makes accessible, homespun, and very beautiful records. This is his third and best album.

JUNIOR SENIOR — D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat (Crunchy Frog) Junior Senior are a Danish duo whose sun-drenched debut single, ”Move Your Feet,” is currently duking it out with Christina Aguilera and Dannii (sister of Kylie) Minogue in the British top 3.

THE KILLS — Keep on Your Mean Side (Domino) A transatlantic duo preposterously naming themselves VV and Hotel, the Kills make nasty, cool blues — like the White Stripes with attitude and a hangover.