After years of incrementally increasing success achieved by a combination of talent as opposed to any grand career plan, Cud reached their commercial and creative apogee with 1992’s utterly wonderful Asquarius. Their first album for major label A&M, Asquarius should have been the album that lodged them permanently into the public’s consciousness, and while it was certainly considerably more commercially successful than their previous albums, the fact that it stalled at 30 in the UK album charts and the accompanying singles faired little better must have been a significant blow to their collective morale. The fact that standalone single, “Purple Love Balloon”, barely registered a blip in sales must have caused no little consternation.
Having had their big chance to impress met with apathy from anyone outside of their core fanbase, Cud had to come back with something which was both accomplished and impressive. 1994’s Showbiz fulfilled both of these criteria, as Cud added big riffs to their already well honed lyrical genius, while the rhythm section of William Potter and Steve Goodwin confirmed themselves as by far and away the funkiest rhythm section in British guitar pop. Showbiz was bigger, glossier and a touch more streamlined than Cud’s previous albums and the whole thing was studded with irresistible choruses.
Roaring open with “Somebody Snatched My Action”, a song which confirms that although they seemed to be taking themselves a touch more seriously, Cud were still not above injecting a healthy dose of fun in their music. Carl Puttnam’s vocals remain unfailingly delivered from the top draw and Mike Dunphy’s guitar work remains several cuts above his contemporaries as Cud then go about the business of providing killer tune after killer tune, with the likes of “ESP”, “One Giant Love”, “You Lead Me”, “I Reek of Chic” and “Not Necessarily Evil” proving that although they may not have previously enjoyed the level of financial success that they had deserved, it hadn’t had a negative effect on their ability to pen a mind-bendingly awesome rock song. Showbiz is the sound of Cud knuckling down and discovering hitherto unexplored drive and depth of dedication to their craft, resulting in a headily potent rock album that crackles with the raw energy of a truly great band at the top of their game and proving their doubters utterly wrong. It closes with the brilliant double punch of “Tourniquet” and “Neurotica”, ensuring that the listener has been subject to one of the most uniquely enjoyable going overs of the decade.
Of course, the fates being as cruel as they are, Showbiz failed to match Asquarius’ modest sales figures and Cud remained a cruelly underappreciated act. It was nothing less than a tragedy, especially when you consider the increasing levels of success that considerably less interesting acts were enjoying at the time. There is simply no reason why Showbiz shouldn’t have launched Cud into the commercial stratosphere. It’s bursting with tunes of unparalleled brilliance and pathos, wrapped in a funky rhythm and some of the finest riffs of the last quarter of a decade, so why didn’t Showbiz cement Cud as one of the finest acts of their generation? It’s something that will never be adequately explained to my satisfaction, but it certainly wasn’t for want of effort of the band.