Music: CD of the Week - Babylon Zoo
The Boy With The X-Ray Eyes (EMI)

ONE small step for Mann, but a giant leap for mankind? Well, hardly, though Jas Mann's debut is an impressive lift-off following Spaceman, the fastest selling debut single since charts began. Jas Mann may not be the first bloke ever to wear a skirt or skunk-stripe his hair (though he's one of the few to benefit from the exposure a jeans commercial tie-up brings). But his contemporary invocation of glam rock benefits from sturdy songwriting, anthemic, hosed-down grunge guitar and deep and meaningless sentiments about 'personal revolution' - territory that Bowie and Bolan planted the flag on years ago.

This is a fey, pretentious vision of music but deny its energy and style to your detriment. The most curious aspect of the band's astronomical rise is how everyone was caught on the hop. Mann's initial reluctance to splash himself everywhere failed to create the aloof mystique intended. It initially escaped the attention that there was some mileage In Mann's Asian background. There then followed tabloid headlines such as: 'Sari girls - he's still a virgin' . But how relevant is that cultural baggage to his music?

Not a lot, to be honest. Early eighties fusion outfit Monsoon, fronted by Sheila Chandra, and 'Bhangramuffin' hitman Apache Indian were both restricted in mainstream terms because others were unable to separate their ethnicity from their artistry. Mann's good fortune is that he 'happened' before that constriction could be applied.

All depends on how ready the children of his revolution are for Jas Mann's unremittingly mid-tempo, kooky pop. 'I'm a great songwriter and I could become a musical genius,' he has said, with what we doctors diagnose as a 'lack of irony in his diet'. Nothing on this set scales the heights of the opening 45 seconds of Spaceman despite the occasional inclusion of 'objects to hand in his bedroom' - whatever that means. Lyrics aren't a strong point but strong tunes put him on the harder side of glam - Alice Cooper corner, so to speak.

But, Houston, there is a problem. The trouble with new stars, as any astronomer knows, is that probed at close quarters, they often turn out to be a load of old rock and hot air. Still, Babylon Zoo 's music is momentous, adolescent, pointless, uplifting, texturally homogeneous and bogus all good signs in pop.

02 Feb 1996: The Guardian - Page 14 - (391 words)

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Other Information
Jas, fully named 'Jasbinder', was born in Dudley in the West Midlands on the 24th day of April 1971

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