Audioweb crossed the acid-fueled, psychedelic sound of Madchester house with deep dub, dancehall and reggae influences, earning a sizable following in the UK during the late '90s. Unlike many of their peers, they weren't given strong support from the weekly music press, primarily because their music was considerably different from the prevelant Brit-pop and its many mutant genres. Nevertheless, the group earned a handful of influential supporters, including Ian Brown and U2, helping make its 1996 debut album Mother a hit.
Audioweb had its roots in an early '90s group called Sugar Merchant, a Manchester-based sextet named after their lead singer, Martin "Sugar" Merchant. The band had signed to Elektra, but over the course of four years, they only played 14 concerts. Eventually, the label dropped the band because of their inactivity, and the remaining quartet -- Merchant, bassist Sean McCann, guitarist Robin File and drummer Maxi -- continued to play, recording a three song demo that included "Sleeper." After playing one concert, Audioweb's demo tape made its way to U2's Mother Records, who signed the band. "Sleeper," the group's debut single, was released in September 1995 and it was immediately put into rotation at Radio One, helping it chart at number 74. At the time, Audioweb had only played a handful of gigs, and several critics within the UK underground sniped that the band were manufactured. Nevertheless, the band continued to develop a following based on their concerts and the singles "Yeah?" and "My World," the latter of which charted at 42 in May of 1996. That fall, their profile was raised considerably when Ian Brown announced in his press statement about the Stone Roses' breakup that his immediate plan was to "kick back and listen to the new Audioweb album." But their breakthrough single didn't arrive until early 1997, when their cover of the Clash's "Bankrobber" reached the Top 10. Shortly afterward, Mother, their debut album, climbed into the Top 10. That summer, Mother was released in the US. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi