Gloom-Rockers Love and Rockets Splash Down in the Mainstream

updated 09/25/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/25/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Not long ago, the three pale, bony Brits known as Love and Rockets would have been mortified to produce any music that might be called accessible. As founding members of an early '80s cult band called Bauhaus, they led a gloomy musical movement known as gothrock and favored bleak moods, black clothes and cacophonous chords. But even the most devoted iconoclasts can stumble into the mainstream, and so it happens that the Rockets now find themselves near the top of the pop charts and touring the U.S. with fellow mope-rock sensations the Cure.

The hit single that has propelled them to such lofty heights is "So Alive," a simple love song from their fourth and latest album, Love and Rockets. "Actually it's a lust song," says lead singer and guitarist Daniel Ash, 32, who formed Love and Rockets four years ago with drummer Kevin Haskins, 29, and Haskins's 32-year-old bassist brother, David, who has changed his last name to J. "Hopefully it sounds sexy. That's one of the biggest parts of rock and roll." Though the band members, unconventional and proud of it, are a little unnerved by their techno-pop ballad's success, they see it as progress of a sort. "With Bauhaus we would never have written a song about boy meets girl," says Ash. "It would have had to be something weird and twisted."

Which is not to say that the Rockets are cleaving to the straight and narrow. Ash still performs in mascara, lipstick and dangly earrings, slipping into a minidress for a tune titled "It's a Drag." And all three like to say they were discovered by "the Bubblemen," space aliens from "the planet Girl."

At home in England, the Rockets live relatively sedate lives in their native Northampton, a working-class town in the English Midlands where they first met as art students 11 years ago. David J. paints; Ash, who describes his love life as "a lot of bloody hassle," finds solace in riding motorcycles; Haskins swears that he likes to "shop for antiques and mow the lawn." The new sound that has catapulted them to fame in the U.S. has aroused scant interest among their countrymen, who still think of them as Bauhaus alumni.

But the Rockets aren't complaining: America loves them, and they love America, despite the fact that, as J. points out, "You can't get a decent cup of tea." Having ascended from the underground, they have found that life doesn't look as gray in the limelight as it did in the Bauhaus. "There are more colors on the palette now," says David J. "And instead of one brushstroke, there are many."

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