see all the photos from this concert here

Ju Ju Babies
Underworld, London
Sunday December 7 2003
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Another gig from Virus Events, the live promotions offshoot of the London-based electronix label, Cryonica Music. This particular show rings the changes somewhat, in that one of tonight's bands, the Ju Ju Babies, aren't really part of the electronic scene. However, their trash 'n' vaudeville approach fits in quite neatly with the tounge-in-cheek style of both Goteki and S.P.O.C.K - in fact, this gig as a whole works well as a kind of interlude of light relief amid the more serious stuff of the London gig circuit. Tonight is a night for having *fun*.

The ever-shifting line-up of the Ju Ju Babies has changed again since I last saw the band. They seem to have lost a guitarist and gained a theremin player and an extra cheerleader. The band launch into their patent brand of energetic, if sometimes ramshackle, new-wave glam-pop, and the stage becomes a blur of movement and colour as pom-poms are thrust enthusiastically to and fro. Notwithstanding the pom-poms, this is a somewhat restrained show by the Ju Ju Babies' usual standards (for a start, there's hardly any simulated sex) and sometimes the sound seems a little shaky. That's probably because the band are playing without a soundcheck: the Underworld ran a mid-afternoon nu-metal gig earlier today, and apparently there wasn't time to prepare for the evening gig properly. The Ju Ju Babies are winging it on a two-minute line-check and no monitors, but they battle through with their usual manic charm. They're a strange combination of amiable pop fun and slightly on-the-edge potential danger. When the lead singer and her two backing-cheerleaders suddenly brandish replica guns as part of their stage routine, on the face of it it's a light-hearted Bond girl moment - but then I see the crazed glint in the singer's eye, and I'm suddenly glad those guns aren't real. This odd juxtaposition of innocent fun and incipient madness is illustrated again when the band reach their theme song, 'Ju Ju Time'. Once, this was a jaunty little pop number, a cheerful calling card. Tonight, the song has been given a walloping great beat and the lyrics are snarled out with real belligerence. 'It's TIME! It's JU JU TIME!' hollers the vocalist, as if daring us to say that it's not. It's never easy to encapsulate the Ju Ju Babies' sound and style (not least because the band line-up never seems to stay the same for two gigs in a row) but try this for size: they're equal parts trash, flash, and car crash. They're fun to watch on stage, but you wouldn't want to be stuck in a lift with them. And that's what makes the band a weirdly compelling spectacle.

Goteki appear before us in their new-look two piece incarnation. Doctor A, the band's former stage-right keyboard player, cartoonist, action-figure maker and all-round visual-realisation man, played his last gig with Goteki at the Whitby Gothic Weekend a month or so back. If we're to believe the comments he made in the recent issue of Meltdown magazine, his departure from the band was a case of being pushed rather than a jump. While this is not the place to ponder internal band-politics, it must be said that his absence doesn't just rob the band of 33% of their stage presence - they've also lost the man who did much to bring the whacko space age toy shop aesthetic of Goteki into reality. Presumably Goteki have plans to reinvent themselves for the future, but tonight we get what is, essentially, an economy version of the band. The remaining two Gotekis bounce about with their usual cheery aplomb, but there's no disguising the large expanse of empty stage space where their third member isn't. The band have some cool and witty songs in their repertoire; in particular 'Do Not Listen To Goteki', which is a neat-as-you-like slice of synthpop, with a nice line in dryly humourous irony - ' will destroy your stereo!' - but the band really have to think up a way of presenting their material in a live situation that's a little more substantial than two blokes jigging about on an otherwise empty stage. The visual presence of Doctor A, who could usually be relied upon to dress up like he'd just beamed down from planet Thaaaarg, delicately picking away at a little keyboard adorned with LEDS, lifted the visual side of things in a way that is perhaps only apparent now he's no longer there. If Goteki have now decided to move away from that kind of image - well, fair enough. But if the only thing the band can think of to do now is to become a standard two-men-and-a-backing-track synthpop outfit, then I fear a certain spark of quirky individuality which Goteki used to possess has died.

S.P.O.C.K have been getting away with murder for fifteen years. And it's not me saying that - this seems to be the band's own view. Tonight's gig, apparently, marks the band's fifteenth anniversary. Yep, they've been around for that long. The band's early years in Sweden are, of course, more or less unknown to us in the UK. It wasn't until much later that S.P.O.C.K began to build up a UK following. But here they are, playing to a crush of enthusiastic fans, and from their self-deprecating comments between the songs it's clear that the band themselves are slightly surprised to be here. Who would have thought that their jokey concept - playing upbeat synthpop songs about science fiction characters, chiefly those from Star Trek - would have turned into a fifteen-year career? Yep, I kid you not, that's what S.P.O.C.K do. If you're looking for serious songs about politics, relationships, the human condition - look elsewhere. That's just not S.P.O.C.K's territory. But if you want an anthem of praise to Doctor McCoy ('He's the doctor! He's Doctor McCoy!'), or an alternative theme song to the ET movie - why, then, S.P.O.C.K will be pleased to deliver. If you think that makes S.P.O.C.K sound like a rather cheesy novelty act, you wouldn't be far wrong in that assessment. But the fact that the band are entirely aware of the flimsiness of their concept, to the point where they happily joke about it with the audience, lets them off the hook. And anyway, while the subject matter of their songs is deliberately foolish, the songs themselves are constructed with a genuine ear for a winning pop melody. This band may play it for laughs in the lyrical department, but they're entirely serious when it comes to putting together a groovy tune or two. The overall result is that S.P.O.C.K come across as both a fully-functional synthpop experience and an endearingly unpretentious good-time outfit. Look at them, throwing cod-dramatic shapes in their matching space suits and deliberately hamming it up for the crowd - in spite of myself, I can't help enjoying the spectacle. I can't say I'll be rushing out to buy S.P.O.C.K albums for intense home listening, but the on-stage experience is disarmingly effective, and sends me home with a cheesy grin on my face.

see all the photos from this concert here

S.P.O.C.K don't seem to have an official website (or if they do, they keep it well hidden) but try these fan sites for the essential stuff:  and


Ju Ju Babies:

Virus Promotions:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: