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Given the hard shell

WHAT'S in a name? As band monickers go, Arnold's isn't the groovimost.

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''Rather prosaically, we're named after our bass-player's dog,'' says Arnold's head guitar-slinger, Mark Saxby. In his original canine form, Arnold's a mild-mannered Staffordshire bull terrier. Arnold, the trio, are a whimsical bunch of plangent rockers from London. They avoid barking raucousness, yet their music bites with tuneful tenacity. They open for ex-Crowded Houser Neil Finn a week on Monday at Glasgow's Armadillo. Turn up in time to check Arnold out. Maybe you'll agree with the world's music press, which has already delivered a favourable verdict. Having first cast aspersions on Arnold's choice of name, Rolling Stone magazine ultimately joined every other critic in hymning the gossamer lure of Arnold's current Creation album, Hillside. Mojo reckoned it was gorgeous; Q felt it evoked the Beatles' White Album as well as Teenage Fanclub at their balladic best. A composite review-of-reviews would hotly garland Arnold with the following words: subtle, exquisite, graceful, aching, Nick Drake, elegant, poignant, languid, hazy, Gram Parsons, sun-dappled. Thankfully, Arnold are no-nonsense sorts who don't take such flowery journo-guff, or themselves, at all seriously. Music is what they make. Playing it is what they do. Simple as that. Ask the modest and endlessly-discursive Mark Saxby for his highlight of the past year, for instance, and he'll simply direct you to the time Arnold played three impromptu mini-gigs in one day on a beach in Savannah, Georgia. It was the only time the band have topped a bill this year, Arnold having recently supported a disparate range of performers - Lyle Lovett, Drugstore, Bernard Butler. What a unique bill Arnold topped, though. ''We played at five or six festivals in the States in the summer, all of them in open-air enormo-domes. We'd go on in broad daylight at one in the afternoon and face this weird King Of The Hill-type audience, rows of blank-faced, pop-corn-munching families, none of whom had any idea who Arnold were. ''The most recent one was the Newport Festival where I noticed Joan Baez beside me in the wings. The Staples Family, who are all about 70, were on-stage playing an amazing version of The Weight, by the Band, and so I reckoned I could either go up to Joan Baez and ask her to dance, or I could be very cruel and say: 'Well, well, what have you been up to since 1963?' Naturally, we danced together. ''Anyway, Arnold eventually had a day off on this swampy island somewhere off the coast near Savannah. We somehow wound up doing two little gigs in the corner of a beach-bar, and then we were invited out on to a proper stage to headline the beach's crab-racing festival.'' Pardon? ''I must stress that the crabs supported us. Quite a feather in our cap, that.'' I think you'll need to explain further. ''They take these hermit crabs, which all have numbers and sponsors' logos painted on their shells, and they put them in a big tin in the middle of a table. They bash the sides of the tin with spoons to gee the crabs up, and then every crab-owner squirts his crab with little jets of water to make it move. There's a $1000 prize for the winner. ''I've got the poster. There's us, the crabs, and for openers there was what was described as a 'grand chicken-shit contest'. We never did actually find out what that was . . . a chicken-shit contest! And then people have the gall to say that Americans don't have a sense of irony.'' Eschewing all irony, can you outline a more suitable non-crustacean support-slot for Arnold? ''Well, one day I'd like to think we can play to an audience which knows our songs and actively wants to hear them, but we've been getting away with it so far. Phil, our singer, is a huge Crowded House fan, so this Neil Finn tour is perfect for him. ''I'd like us to support Neil Young and Crazy Horse. As well as wearing plaid shirts and being laidback, we share another attitude in common with Neil Young: both of us can sometimes be a bit hit-and-miss. One night we're brilliant, the next night we can be awful. All my favourite bands are the same. It seems the whole point of music . . . to take risks.'' One of Arnold's previous visits to Glasgow involved a large degree of risk-taking, too. ''We've played at King Tut's three times so far, and one show there was the most terrifying night of my life. It was early in our playing career when we were supporting Spiritualised on a live Radio 1 broadcast. We managed a 30-second soundcheck before Steve Lamacq suddenly introduced us to the nation. ''It was an awful performance from us, with an awful overall sound, too - and not only because what you could hear mostly was our knees knocking.''

Creation supremo Alan McGee famously discovered Oasis in King Tut's. One of Arnold's chums last year passed McGee a tape of their demos. McGee was sufficiently impressed to release them soon afterwards as The Barn Tapes. Is there an unwelcome pressure to being on high-profile Alan McGee's high-profile Creation label? ''It works both ways. Being a Creation band certainly gets you noticed, but it leads to preconceptions about what kind of band you are . . . and we don't conform to any of them. Alan McGee will probably hate me saying this, but I basically see Creation as a three-minute power-pop label, with Primal Scream acting as a more experimental wing. We're not either of those things. ''But Creation, unlike lots of labels, allowed us to make the album we wanted to, and they're committed to building us over some years. We've enjoyed everything about the music business so far, and we don't want it to stop. ''We intend to keep on appreciating everything that's happening to us as it happens. I don't like the feeling of taking anything for granted. When you do that, you stop functioning.'' That's Arnold for you. Crab-like in their progress, never crabbit in their demeanour. Sometimes moving steadily sideways, perhaps, but always hoping to journey onwards, upwards.

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