Dadaistically detached from reality and selfconsciously eclectic, the Leeds-area quartet Cud matches obscure lyrical wit and simple parodic music on its jukebox-blender longplaying debut. The 21-minute title track of When in Rome, Kill Me is a series of seven dry jokes — the Morrissey tweak of “Only (A Prawn in Whitby),” the quirky- pop “Bibi Couldn’t See,” the vintage Britbeat of “Push and Shove,” the garage psychedelia of “When in Rome, Kill Me Again,” etc. — all linked by spoken drama. Elsewhere, Cud trundles merrily through blistering fuzz-rock (“Van Van Van”), Pink Floyd pop (“Alison Springs”) and a careful Dexys imitation (“Wobbly Jelly”).
The second album, Elvis Belt, mostly collects up Cud’s unfocused and dull early singles (going back to 1987) and covers. (Imaginary is the label behind the tribute album fad, and Cud has appeared on its share of them.) While a previously unissued high-speed interpretation of the Bonzo Dog Band’s “Urban Spaceman” is annoying but worth hearing, Elvis Belt (which contains one new number and an early version of When in Rome‘s “I’ve Had It With Blondes”) is unlikely to attract any new Cudophiles.
Produced by XTC’s Dave Gregory, Leggy Mambo brings Cud’s surreality closer to serious accessibility with good playing, clear sound (finally) and less specific musical satire. Unfortunately, left to its own semi- nostalgic stylistic devices, Cud hasn’t got enough personality or imagination to sustain an album. Despite a few cool pop tracks (the Buddy Hollyesque “Not Exactly D.L.E.R.C.,” the inevitable Madchester spoofs of “Magic” and “Syrup and Sour Grapes”), Leggy Mambo is pointless and dull.
By the time the group got a US release, Cud had shaken off much of the parodic obscurity of its early releases and embraced a groove-heavy mix of power pop bounce and hard- rock guitars. The Cud Band E.P. takes four of Leggy Mambo‘s catchier tracks, adds a dance remix of “Magic” and sets a course for the band’s unfortunate beeline to cut-out bins everywhere. It’s a shame, too, since the subsequent release, Asquarius (almost entirely produced by Mekon Jon Langford), delivers on the rockist promise only hinted at in the band’s embryonic efforts. With Carl Puttnam’s cocksure faux-Vegas delivery and generally upbeat lyrics, the Stonesy guitar raunch of “Sometimes Rightly, Sometimes Wrongly” and joyous boogie of “Rich and Strange” and “Pink Flamingo” sound downright fresh.
Showbiz steers this versatile band in a funkier direction, though “Waving and Drowning” and “Slip Away” suggest the guys had been listening to far too much Spin Doctors. No matter that “One Giant Love” is a virtual rewrite of “Pink Flamingo,” its touching idealism and the infectious ebullience of “You Lead Me” make Cud a band that deserves to be heard.