Gary Le Strange

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SMIRNOFF UNDERBELLY (VENUE 61)

WHEN pop stars, fictional or otherwise, claim they are going to bin the artifice of their early days and go back to their roots, it usually spells commercial suicide. But, as former "face warrior" Gary Le Strange has never actually achieved chart success, it's not such an issue that he has ditched New Romantic synthpop foppery for relatively sober pinstripes and pink shirt and a concept album, Beef Scarecrow, inspired by childhood traumas.

Le Strange is as demented and portentous as ever, sharing his pain through the medium of agit-prop poetry, fantasy fiction, pop art and mime as much as through overwrought electro rock nonsense such as Secret Wolf, The Kidney Piper and When I'm Prime Minister, the latter written when he was a mere 11 years old.

These intensely personal paeans to meat and animals are not as immaculately conceived, nor as hysterically funny, as his New Romantic period.

He loses some impact in not targeting a specific genre, although the psychedelic pastoral Beef Scarecrow owes its crushed-velvet-loon-pants ambience to Syd Barrett, and its ridiculous overblown epic, The Day of the Maggots, sounds not unlike parts of the new Scott Walker album.

That's the difficult second album out the way; next, the rehab years.

• Until 27 August.