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NEW KIDS IN TOWN

Glasgow Pop-soul

May 31, 1987|JON MATSUMOTO

Band: Hipsway.

Personnel: Grahame (Skin) Skinner, vocals; Harry Travers, drums; Pim Jones, guitar. Also in the touring group are Gary Houston, bass; Nigel Gregory, keyboards; Anthony McDonald, percussion.

History: Like many exponents of Britain's '80s soul revival (Style Council, Blow Monkeys et al.), this Glasgow-bred R&B group has its musical roots grounded in the punk and post-punk sound of the late '70s and early '80s. Childhood friends Skinner and Travers were in a Scottish punk outfit called the White Savages in 1983, but the band lasted only six months as both quickly grew tired of the group's Velvet Underground oriented art-punk style. The duo then recruited ex-Altered Images bassist Johnny McElhone (who recently left the band) and guitarist Jones. As Hipsway, the foursome adopted a soul-pop sound based on their mutual love for R&B and their desire to break from the harsh punk amateurism of most Glasgow bands. Britain's Phonogram Records was so high on Hipsway that it signed the group even though it had only cut one demo and played one gig. The band's third single, "The Honeythief," reached both the British and U.S. Top 20. The band's debut album, "Hipsway," was released in the U.S. on Columbia last January and peaked at No. 55 on the charts. Hipsway has also toured Europe as an opening act for the Eurythmics and Simple Minds.

Sound: Hipsway has a predilection for stylish pop-soul tunes. The band's mostly mid-tempo dance songs accent its funky rhythmic foundation and Skinner's suave delivery. Like many English soul singers, Skinner is an adequate but hardly exceptional vocalist. Most of the band's sparsely arranged songs are rather formulaic, and lack the emotional punch and melodiousness to be truly memorable. But Hipsway does possess a few ingratiating tunes, such as the upbeat, Style Council-like "The Broken Years" and the smooth and tasty ballad "Long White Car." Of all the British neo-soul groups, the trio most resembles the designer pop sound of the Blow Monkeys.

Shows: The Roxy, Thursday.

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