gasaroonie of the title track's backing harmonies to the self- explanatory “I Am Stop Taking Pot Man'. it’s another gorgeous patchwork sprawl through the cut-up ephemera of twisted souls rumbling through a jazz-punk. squelch-funk, squat-dub jungle. With fellow travellers Gareth Sager and Malcolm Ross. ex-Pop Group and Josef K major players respectively on board. the result is the pure underground genius of a shebeen jukebox made flesh. The Nectarine No 9 are the greatest pop stars who never made the charts. Buy this immediately. (Neil Cooper)

SKA STATESIDE HOMBRES Skank (Concept Music) 0..


9 r ~ r it

Alert Trading Standards! Stateside Hombres may sound like a burly punk band from New York but are actually a West Midlands ska nine-piece marshalled by an ex- member of EMF. It sounds silly. and with bandmembers called H, D'Bastille and Nige and a suppOrt slot with the Fun Lovin' Criminals coming up. it would be easy to fling the Hombres into a secure container marked 'Comedy Fusion: Do Not Open Until Hell Freezes Over'. But much of Skank is very entertaining indeed. from the lazy lope of “Make it Reggae' to the fluttering drum & bass of ‘Bam Boom'. and if you like your ska funky and eclectic. Stateside Hombres should soundtrack your livelier moments very nicely indeed. (James Smart)


Her Space

Placebo now suck. ‘English Summer Rain’ (Virgin e ) is proof. Turgid. lacklustre. affected. vacuous and directionless. Starsailor also now suck. ‘Four to the Floor' (EMl o ) tries to sound funky. the last refuge of a derivative soulless indie band run out of ideas. Starting well. aren't we? Don't worry it gets better.

‘Stacy’s Mom' (S-Curve COCO ) by Fountains of Wayne is dumb as they come but utterly addictive. Imagine a hormone-added Buddy Holly given a loud guitar and forced to watch Beverley Hills 90210 re-runs. You got it.

Wanna sound like the Buzzcocks? Join the club. Or join The Cribs cos “You Were Always the One’ (Wichita COO ) aims for dizzy. fuzzy Anglo-pop punk heights. but lands somewhere around the Libertines mark. ‘Splinters' (Wichita oeee ) by Weevil is a strange and hypnotic beast. lt creaks. it wheezes. it chugs. it wobbles. It is dreamy electro pop with a macabre twist and it's really very good.

Equally wobbly is Lucky Luke's ‘Simon Of The Desert’ (Wee Black Skelf m ). This Glasgow octet are gently kicking out the Jams with their own particular brand of woozy, if uplifting neo-folk. Very lovely in it's own slightly weird way.

Elbow’s ‘Not a Job' (V2 000 ) staggers along in bleary-eyed fashion. but fails to ignite out of its album context. Their B-side cover of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrops' is truly disturbing though. As are Mad Action. Their 'Teac Attack EP' (on ) is a rampage of unhinged. home-cooked singer- songwriterly lunacy. folky as heck one minute. punky as fuck the next.

Lemar was the one who could actually sing from last year's Fame Academy debacle. but why bother when you serve up anodyne balladic dross like ‘Another Day'? (Sony e ) Showing him how it's done is Josh Rouse. coming across like a sun- kissed Marvin Gaye on ‘Come Back (Light Therapy)’ (RYKO eee ). a song which even manages to make a flute solo sound cool, for fuck’s sake.

Britney Spears. Hmmm. I can only assume that Toxic (Zomba eee ) is actually giving off some addictive, hallucinatory fumes. because I’m finding myself strangely drawn to its daft, hyperactive beats and desperate. breathy vocals. Jamelia needn't resort to such tactics. ‘Thank You' (Parlophone eeee ) is a beautifully bare piece of stripped-down. soulful pop, with the air of uplifting melancholy about it that 608 Motown did so well. Almost Single of the Fortnight but the award is snatched at the last moment by Her Space Holiday. “My Girlfriend's Boyfriend’ (Wichita 00000) has a pure pop heart. dressed in sweeping strings and bleepy electronica ambience with bursts of shredding guitars. as Marc Bianchi (for HSH is he) tugs at heartstrings with some brilliantly twisted post-modern heartbreak lyrics. “You can't make someone love you with a song.’ he sings at one point. On the contrary. sir.

(Doug Johnstone)





. (Acclaim) £39.99 O...

E RPGs have got it hard. ' Make the gameplay too

restrictive. too on-rails and the roleplayers will whine and moan about character integrity and environmental realism. However, allow too much freedom. the chance to do anything at any time. and non- roleplayers will become lost. flapping around like chicken—sans-téte before racing back to the shop for a trade-in. What to do, what to do?

Black Isle (bow your head for it is no more) manages to maintain a glorious balance between these two possible problems while delivering an even better adventuring experience than before. There is more to do. more to see. more to hack'n'slash, yet it is all framed in a beautifully paced story that demands spending just one more hour in the lovingly created Sword Coast. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2 is by far the best console RPG outside Japan; let‘s hope that the boys and girls of Black Isle find a good home soon and begin to shape our next heroic voyage.


NFL STREET (Electronic Arts) £39.99 .0.

Basketball is played on the street. From

: backstreet courts in Da

Hood (s'up ma homies’?) to play-parks in Falkirk (Malky. yer tea's oot!) a bouncy ball and a hoop can become Madison

Square Gardens. So a computer game of street b'ball is understandably enjoyable and successful.

American Football. on the other hand. is not played on the street. Four hours per game. no action longer than 20 seconds. lots of armour and carefully observed violence make for a poor kick-about sport. Which is why NFL Street. despite all its hardest efforts to be fun. falls just short of the line. Moving it around various locations doesn't help and reducing the number of players doesn't help. It just lacks that anal. controlled. statistic-heavy chess game that American Football is actually all about. Still, if it sells enough. no doubt we will be treated to Street Golf soon enough. Anyone want to thump Tiger Woods or Colin Montgomery with a nine iron?

PC X2: THE THREAT (Koch Media) £29.99

It is strange to think that the main objective of X2: The Threat is to make you feel you have a job. Yup. after a hard day at the school/college. office/call centre. you are meant to come home. put the kettle and your slippers on, relax into the PC chair and crank up a game that emulates all the hassles of daily life. OK. it is daily life as the owner of an intergalactic spaceship. but still. Should yOu buy and sell? Should you become a tour guide. selling star maps of actual celestial bodies? Or should yOu feed off the state and become a pirate?

Sure. it sounds kind of exciting but. well. X2: The Threat is devoid of character. It lacks the spark. that cheeky

it) i (El) -1l\/1;ir?()(f.2


warmth that draws you into its universe. It looks great. and despite the dodgy combat. the flying is realistic. Which also makes it dull. Autopilot is on more than it should be. reducing a visually detailed and gobsmackingly expansive game to a series of menus. And The Threat? Unfonunately. it is the possibility of damaging your teeth as you fall asleep and slam your face into your keyboard.

GAMECUBE ROGUE OPS (Kemco) £39.99 0

ENOUGH WITH THE STEALTH GAMES PLEASE. Sorry. caps lock is a terrible thing but sometimes. just sometimes. it is the only way to get a point across. Rogue Ops is a stealth game. It has a stealthy female protagonist. It has a terrible plot about personal revenge on the stealthy terrorists who killed her family. it has the same stealthy black trousers. ropes with stealthy hooks and stealthy headsets with mics as every other stealth game ever.

It is not entirely devoid of invention however. There is a neat trick with hiding in shadows that is stabbed in the back with the stealthy dagger of poor level design. The game randomly picks which of the identical dark corners it will actually let yOu hide in. There are also the stealthy limitations of the worst kind. like steps you cannot walk up because. well. yOu can't. But the main problem is that. stealthily. the world has been inundated with these stealth titles and they are nearly all better than this one. Creep away from it as. yes yOu guessed it. stealthily as you can. (lain Davrdson)