ELECTRONICA THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS Come With Us (Virgin. Freestyle Dust) 000.
Being a backing band must really suck. Remember any of the Dreamers, the Ants or even the Sunshine band? Nah, me neither but that’s not the point. Throughout their critical and commercially lauded career, Ed Simmons and Tom Rowland have, at various points, played second fiddle to their ‘special guest stars’. Not convinced? What about Noel Gallagher, Tim Burgess and Barney Sumner then? Guests on electronic act’s albums have become de rigeur, as much because of record companies’ desires for a focus as much as the collaborative nature of the music.
Despite their keenness to collaborate, the Chemical Brothers still maintain an uneasy relationship with these vocal contributions live, preferring not to play samples of the singers. But hooklines from anyone else they have already legitimately sampled is okay? Go figure.
It is fitting then that for their fourth album they mostly eschew vocals, instead focusing on a sound which, while happily at odds with almost every current trend in dance music, remains instantly familiar.
They are at their best when at their most instant: the jiggly, jiggy funk of ‘Galaxy Bounce’ swings like an elephant’s nuts and the title track is as close as they could get to a signature tune. Same goes for the sunshine guitar lines of ‘Star Guitar’, which are already heralding the goals of the week on Football Focus such is its anthemic qualities and ‘Hoops’ will undoubtedly follow that route. Low points come with the sub-Orbital out ’n’ paste of ‘My Elastic Eye’ and the awkward slap disco of ‘Denmark’ but these are the exception to the rule.
All this quality instrumentalism was obviously not enough so in roll a couple of pals for a singalong with chequered results. Beth Orton’s ‘The State We’re In’ is just the wrong side of plain and could be Primal Scream’s ‘Shine Like Stars’ done very clumsily. Closer ‘The Test’ however, is wilful angry beast, Richard Ashcroft
wailing on as wonderfully ever, asking ‘did I pass
the acid test?’ but suggesting ‘you better go to bed now’. His is a voice more suited to plaintive
melancholy than celebratory declarations, but by
Christ, he hasn’t flowed with such energy for many a moon.
Another solid, if inconsistent trail through the duo’s favourite morsels of musical history. Less hip hop and more acid disco but still unique: 3 satisfyingly contradictory soundclash.
88 THE LIST ‘/ 2‘ m /'/l'/
Tiger Flies (Snowstorm) .0
Tiger Flies has all the makings of a good album: an impressive array of sounds. guest appearance (Jason Hazeley. other half to Ben) and creators with a penchant for spellbinding harmonies. Somewhere along the way however, Candidate forgot a few of the essentials; namely passion. drive and an infectious chorus or two. This album may drift and sway from the slick beats and slide guitar of ‘Talk About Troubles‘ to the hay folk music of ‘Hawaiian Police‘ but after a while the lack of strong melodies becomes glaringly obvious. This makes for an easy on the ears collection of songs tinged with a niceness that ultimately numbs. All sighs and no substance. (Camilla Pia)
ROCK 'N' ROLL JOSH ROUSE Under Cold Blue Stars (Rykodisc/Slow River) 0.
Nashville-based. Nebraskan singer songwriter Rouse takes a cue from his spiritual home's country musicians to tell stories. For Under Cold Blue Stars. Rouse has invented a fictitious 50$ couple and charts the ups and downs of their relationship over the album's eleven songs. Rouse sings heartfelt happy-sad songs about everyday folk — 'NOthing Gives Me PleaSure'. ‘Feeling No Pain' — in the vein of Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty. but he doesn‘t have the distinctive vocals of either. And his laments never plumb the despairing territory of Springsteen‘s Nebraska. nor do they provide the uplift of Petty's “Free Fallin". Rouse falls somewhere inbetween: in other words MOR.
ELECTRONICA MIDNIGHT FUNK ASSOCIATION Coffee Shop Rules (Domino) O...
As an early mainstay of the Mo' Wax stable. MFA were no slouches but their tunes were too often sidelined as ‘music to smoke spliff to'. On this. their first for Domino. they‘ve tidied up the coffee table only to get up on it for a few wriggly dance moves. For every moody electro nodder like 'Last Time‘ there's a stealthy Lalo Shifrin- esque ‘Look At Me‘ or even a mucky two-step fondler like 'Sexy Way'. Not exactly washing back the bOundaries With TSunami-like waves of innovation but a definite grower nonetheless. And hey. don't buy the vinyl. y'know you'll just skin up on it. (Mark Robertson)
HIP HOP LUDACRIS
Word Of Mouf
(Def Jam South) .00.
The 80th may be bigging itself up as hip hop's new heartland. but if Atlanta's Ludacris is anything to go by. its lyrical preOCCupations are strictly mired in 908 bitchslapping misogyny. Ludacris at least has a healthy sense of irony, and gives us a series of capering tales that are as far from social realism as its possible to get.
His tunes are pretty addictive too. marrying throbbing funk and smooth soul to create a Vibe that veers from the tough to the mellow without ever losmg the groove. It's occasionally unpalatable. but that won't stop it being gobbled up like a dripping kebab after closing time. lJames Smart)
HIP HOP VARIOUS ARTISTS Westwood 2
(Def Jam UK) 0...
Whatever you think of Tim Westwood and his Wigga pretensions y0u have to concede he has top class taste in music. And no One else in the
SOTF through no default of their own
Singer/songwriters suck don't they? Imagine how monumentally dull the result of an unholy union between David Gray and Dido would be? On second thoughts, don't. But there's hope for the genre yet. as Richard Hawley‘s forlorn ‘Baby You're My Light‘ (Setanta 000 ) proves. all country melancholy and simple yet effective shuffles.
Likewise. the shimmering pop of ‘Feeling No Pain‘ (Rykodisc 000 ) from Josh Rouse and the robust bluesy indie of Ben Christophers’ ‘Leaving My Sorrow Behind' (V2 000 ) make reasonable stabs at holding your attention for three minutes. All of which is far from the anodyne. glossy and vapid Tippi. whose disco-lite cover of “Tinseltown In The Rain’ (Tip Top 0 ) is a truly depressing aural experience.
A singer songwriter masquerading as a band is the much-praised Mull Historical Society aka Colin Macintyre. ‘Watching Xanadu' (Blanco Y Negro O ) sees MHS continuing to produce tediously schmaltzy alternative pop and is like a mouthful of cola cubes - a great idea for the first five seconds but ultimately painful, unfulfilling and sickening in the extreme.
Right, we need bands. But not bands like A1. 'Caught In The Middle’ (Columbia 0 ) is so inoffensive and bland that human ears over the age of seven can't actually hear it. so I can‘t comment. Except to say that it's crap.
Also strictly for under-eight lugholes are Steps-wannabes aIIStars, whose cover of Bucks Fizz’s ‘Land Of Make Believe. (Island 000 ) at least recalls the days when pop songs were proper big, dumbass. idiotic beasts with choruses and everything.
Local bands for local people next. 'Fading Out’ EP (Contact High 0 ) by The Goldenhour is completely without interest or merit. being an utterly derivative piece of Britpop bilge. Ditto High Rollers ‘Buy That Smile“ (demo 0 ).
More interesting Scottish fare is two Creeping Bent singles from their Pocket Radiodrops Series (Creeping Bent 00 ). one featuring Mongoose and Transelement (glitchy, electro wobbliness) the other The Nectarine No. 9 and Square Peg (shambolic. acoustic wobbliness).
And so to rawk. Alien Ant Farrn’s ‘Movies‘ (Dreamworks O. ) is vaguely irritating nu- funk-metal with precious little humour while Beatsteaks' 'Summer‘ (Epitaph 00 ) is slightly cheesy German nu-funk-metal with no humour at all. Which paves the way for Jimmy Eat World to get Single Of The Fortnight pretty much by default. Although hardly a life- Changing listen, ‘The Middle’ (Dreamworks COO ) is at least a short. sharp blast of intelligent. punky rock'n'roll with the decency to have a chorus you can sing along to and a stupid widdly guitar solo. (Doug Johnstone)