Sneak Attack

Some might call this artistic license. But, in a way, the Sneaker Pimps are operating entirely without one. Just as they feel free to reinterpret the works of others, they're happy when others reinterpret theirs. "Each of us has our own take on a song," Dayton posits. "Usually we're very ambiguous about what it means. And the songs, when they're handed over to the public, you give up all rights on your meaning and emotions. It doesn't stop where the artist created something." Perhaps that explains why the menacing "Low Place Like Home," which rails against the bleakness of the Newcastle 'burbs, applies just as well to Birmingham or even parts of Broward County.

Even the band itself doesn't always see eye to eye on its own songs: Howe and Dayton clashed over one line in "Post-Modern Sleaze." "Apparently, he'd read the story about Thelma and Louise causing wives to leave their husbands," Dayton explains. "So he put the line in there. But I doubt very much that totally happy women would one day run off just because of a movie. So I told him off about that one. But when I'm singing, I always put a different story in there anyway."

Maybe it's this noncommittal attitude that caused one reporter to accuse the Sneaker Pimps of promising little -- and delivering just that. Dayton seems perfectly aware of this, just as she realizes that the band may never escape the "trip-hop" label and inevitable comparisons to Tricky and Portishead, two other sampler-based acts from gloomy English towns. "The less imaginative people call it trip-hop," she contends. "It's funny to me that I'm working with people who have to package it and sell it, and that's fair enough. But that's not our job as musicians."

What is the musician's job, then? It used to be creating music. Now it seems to be re-creating other people's music. Dayton's heard this argument, too, and her defense is quite disarming.

"It's like language," she avers. "It's only rarely there'll be new words invented, or new colors, if you like. But it's what we do with the colors and the words that will always be changing.

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