New & Cool: Space Monkeys' Punk-Techno Rock Explosion

"Sugar Cane" sweet enough to send frontman Richard McNevin-Duff and band on first U.S. tour.

As far as he's concerned, Space Monkeys lead singer/ guitarist Richard McNevin-Duff could do without all the hype.

In fact, his Manchester-based Space Monkeys have purposely dodged what they see as the poisoned music press in their native

U.K., he added, because "good bands get lost too often" with the change-by-day, front-cover trends established by New Musical Express and Melody Maker.

However, thanks to a curiously infectious single,

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Space_Monkeys/Sugar_Cane.ram">"Sugar Cane" (RealAudio excerpt), the

time has come for 26-year-old McNevin-Duff and the Space Monkeys, and, whether they like it or not, the hype is knocking

on their door. Luckily for him, however, McNevin-Duff is sneaking out the back way, preparing himself and his band for

their first-ever American tour, which kicks off at the end of this month in New York.

"I can't wait to come to America, to see if we can work hard enough to

make some sort of dent in the system," said McNevin-Duff, calling from

the front office of the U.K.-based Factory Records label, whose owner, Tony Wilson, signed the

Space Monkeys after their first-ever performance, a 1994 basement gig at

the infamous Hacienda. (Wilson, it should be noted, is already assured a place in rock history for signing Joy Division.)

Three years later, the Space Monkeys find themselves on the proverbial

hit-machine Interscope label, and with a cross-genre list of radio

stations already pounding "Sugar Cane" on their playlists, it looks like

the Space Monkeys could become the latest reason for Time-Warner

stockholders to kick themselves. Time-Warner sold off its interest in Interscope following public pressure over the label's hard rock and gangsta rap.

"It'll be wild, performing at all of these places we've only seen in the

movies," McNevin-Duff said, adding that it's always been his dream to

perform in America. With a smirk, he added, "We'd like to get booked at Cape Canaveral for

New Year's Eve 1999."

If McNevin-Duff does seem a tad jaded by American culture -- he

name drops "Pac Man," Bladerunner, "Hong Kong Phooey" and Grandmaster

Flash in "Sugar Cane" alone -- it's because he is. The Daddy Of Them

All, the Space Monkeys' debut American record, features numerous

references to Yankee pop culture, plus samples of mega-U.S. rappers Public Enemy and the Wu-Tang Clan to boot. American

hip-hop, McNevin-Duff said, has had a tremendous influence on his music, aside from the fact it just happened

to be what the Space Monkeys were listening to when they produced their

record.

"We never knew you had to get permission for sampling," McNevin-Duff

said. "We just took stuff that sounded right or said something we liked

and threw it into our songs. It's forced us to go and find more underground, unprotected sounds to use in our music.

"I haven't heard from Public Enemy or Wu-Tang personally, but I hear

they're into the sound," he added. "And that's great, because they just aren't rappers -- P.E. and Wu-Tang are bands, and they

put a lot into their music and their sound."

What the Space Monkeys put into their sound is a blatant mix of acid

house, dance and pop, with strong guitar hooks and percussion sets. The

first track on their album,

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Space_Monkeys/Acid_House_Killed_Rock_And_Roll.ram">"Acid House Killed Rock

and Roll" (RealAudio excerpt), completely contemplates itself by transforming its rock elements in fusing sampled

guitars and jungle beats, while on "Let It Shine" McNevin-Duff, keyboardist DJ Tony Pipes, bassist Dom Morrison and

drummer Chas Morrison borrow a page or two from the Stone Roses Madchester pop sound.

While "Sugar Cane" steps more in the direction political dance-punk pop stars Chumbawamba have taken in their smash hit

"Tubthumping," most of The Daddy Of Them All is haphazard yet careful, from the deep ambiance in

"Sweetest Dream" to the chorus-laden "Smile America." And like Chumbawamba, the Space Monkeys are all about genre

mixing, blending wisps of acid house and sample-heavy rhythms into traditional British trends such as shoegazing rock and

post-Beatles pop.

Think Oasis meets EMF. Better yet, think Oasis meets EMF, with a steel-cage match with electronica-rock darlings the

Prodigy to decide who gets to keep the DJ.

In just a few weeks, the Space Monkeys will do battle in a small club

tour across America, with a few radio-station-sponsored Christmas shows

thrown in for balance. It's just the second stateside trip for the band,

which traveled to New York three weeks ago to work with producer David

LaChapelle on the video for "Sugar Cane."

One of the Space Monkeys' first gigs will be a radio-station-sponsored "low-dough" show at The Saint in Asbury Park, N.J.

"We're expecting a huge crowd that night," says Saint owner Scott Stamper, whose club holds just about 200 people. "These

little bands pop by here in the winter, and once the summer comes, they end up down the street at the giant clubs.

"With these Space Monkeys, it looks like we're getting them just as they

explode."

At least that's what McNevin-Duff is hoping for -- without all the hype that is.

[Tues., Nov. 18, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]