Once again Marcus Austin, Jimmie Blackburn, and Colin Hamilton cast their eyes over this months indie releases.

Black Love - Afghan Whigs - Mute

The long long awaited follow up album to the critically acclaimed Gentlemen finally hits the streets. In the making for the best part of three years Black Love is a movement away from the often quiet Gentlemen, albeit a slight movement. Some of the tracks sound vaguely Stone Roses like with the full wah wah peddle sound. The others are just like all the other Whigs stuff you ever heard

The last we heard of Greg Dulli was when he did vocals with the Backbeat Band, for the soundtrack to the 1994 film 'Backbeat'. So what has he been doing since then well certainly not writing classic lyrics. The last album was superb on all fronts but best on it's superb lyrics, but you won't find lyrics like this 'Ladies, let me tell you about myself/ I got a dick for a brain/And my brain is gonna sell my ass to you/Now I'm OK, but in time I'll find I'm stuck/'Cause she wants love, and I still want to fuck' on Black Love or rather you won't be able to hear them if they are there. The lyrics are way down in the mix and often muffled and the album loses something because of it.

Track by track

Crime Scene Part One - slow

My Enemy - low key ish

Double Day - A ranting kicking song that drives all over the place like a blind mad bull in a padded cell, it sounds nice but ultimately doesn't get to far but probably sounds bloody brilliant live.

Blame, etc - Bluesy rock almost Stone Roses like. Going to town - OK it even sounds like there's drum machine at work.

Honky's Ladder - "got you where I want you motherfucker don't you try to move" Voted by the rage crew as the best use of Motherfucker in recording this will never get radio play I can g'tee it. But it's a real shame because it's the best track on the album.

Night by Candlelight - Another slowy complete with string sections

Bulletproof - All together now "Every time I dream about you baby /hands all over me" The other major stand out track on the LP, should have gone down a stormer at the recent live gigs but failed. A great piano break at the end that's just wanting to be sampled

Summer's kiss - Starts off almost too rocky to be the Whigs, but then Greg Dulli's voice croons in part sandpaper part 200 fags a day.

Faded - The best track has been left to the last a powerhouse track.

9/10 MA

Throneberry: Trot Out The Encores (Alias)

The gap between the American and the British mainstream seems to grow ever wider, as this, the second album from Cincinnati's Throneberry, demonstrates. From the same town as the rather better known Afghan Whigs, who they're currently touring with, they lack that band's amazing knack of turning their inadequacies into strengths. So when Greg Dulli et al use their sheer lack of funk as a perfect way of transmitting their edgy and neurotic message, Throneberry simply bludgeon a path through potentially interesting material. The neat faux-soul of 'Drops of Moxie' and the choppy 'The Widow' are entertaining enough, but there's no disguising the fact that tracks like 'Spellbinder' bring to mind something as bombastic as Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Freebird', rather than anything, well, good. And in Britain their patent sincerity counts for absolutely nothing. So let the Yanks have it, and we won't miss it. Not offensive, just irrelevant.

5/10 JB

Karate: Karate (Southern)

'The old joke about the Velvet Underground, that not many people bought their records but everyone who did formed a band, has recently been repeated about the then hardly noticed, but now much missed Slint. But where the Velvets always offered a path into music for the literate if technically ungifted Slint's fragile, rather cerebral sound has mainly led to a lot of people copping their curiously crafted sound whole, rather than adding to it. So I wasn't too hopeful of yet another generic white boy suburban set of middle class American slackers coming up with an interesting variation on the formula. But surprisingly enough their twin bass line up often hits the spot, not least because they avoid the intricacy which plagues many college boys attempts at communication. So tracks like 'If You Can Hold Your Breath' and 'What is Sleep?' have some real life of their own. It gets a bit whiny somewhere through side two, but hell, where would the comfortably privileged be without something to complain about. Surprisingly good.

7/10 JB

Cable: Down-lift the Up-trodden (Infectious)

Derby's excellent Cable are the nearest that Britain gets to producing an equivalent of America's thousands of 'slintricate' college boy bands, though they really are best appreciated live. This mini-album, impeccably packaged in a sleeve that spoofs John Mayall's Bluesbreakers album of 1965- just about the last time that Eric Clapton was cool in fact-, is rather more wayward than their terrific live performances would lead you to expect, but excellent singles 'Blindman' and 'Seventy' are present and correct. Opener 'New Set of Bruises' is equally fine, but attempts to capture the excitement of first hearing the Birthday Party such as 'Murdering Spree' never succeed, no matter how good an idea they seem at the time. Still, all in all a worthwhile collection, and hopefully their work with a new drummer should surpass this yet.

7/10 JB

Denim: Denim On Ice (Echo)

Well, the world is hardly on edge with anticipation at the thought of another Denim album, but Lawrence, ex of the rather more ethereal Felt, has come up with a second collection of feeble karaoke-New Wave backing tracks and impressively arcane lyrics that'll be clogging bargain bins faster than you can say 'Irony is not, in itself, worthy of reward'. So we get songs like "The Great Pub Rock Revival', a dig at the NME that only someone who's read the NME for fifteen years could possibly make sense of, or bother to wrte, the truly underwhelming 'It Fell Off The Back Of A Lorry'- the title is the entire joke, and the rather more perceptive, if still unlistenable 'The Supermodels', a tale of reader's wives, in convoluted rhymes. It's not all bad- 'Synthesizers In The Rain' is an authentically useless pisstake of New Romanticism and its irrelevance to most, 'Brumburger' is as brutal as anything in Trainspotting and 'Glue and Smack' is a smoky sleazy tale . But the hilarious mocking of Blur that is 'Job Centre' is the best of only a few tracks you'd listen to twice voluntarily. It's a pity really, because Lawrence is an acerbic and witty lyricist. It's just that he can't find a tune, or hold one, and though this may be entirely successful as an attempt at cheap, cheesy pop I look forward with more hope to his first novel.

6/10 JB

Terrorvision: Regular Urban Survivors (EMI)

Anyone who's been watching the recent Sounds of the Eighties series will be aware that there really was an eighties sound. Mainly formed by early use of technology that is now commonplace it basically means that virtually all of the corporate music of the time sounds identical: plodding sequenced bass parts, crunching snare drum, big wooshing synth sounds, they were all at it then...and it sure sounds shit now. I mention this because as soon as the first track on this album crashes in you are obviously in the presence of production- Terrorvision sound as powerful and slick as a modern studio can make them, and when they dabble with drum loops on tracks like 'Conspiracy' it's simply because the machines were there, not because anyone had a sudden idea. So what we have is a competent collection of sparky, fairly memorable songs like single 'Perseverance' and the semi-literate 'Superchronic', all infused with the smell of sweaty boys and spilled lager which a lot of people will love but the majority will ignore totally. And in ten years time everyone will have totally forgotten that they ever existed until they see them on some oldies show and wonder how anyone could have ever liked something so limp and formulaic. But then if you don't demand greatness they might be fine...

5/10 JB
Mega city four: Soulscraper (Fire)

What a title! Why not just call it barrelscraper and be done with it. Because who the hell is going to take a blind bit of notice of anything the always useless MC4 do these days. Even at their commercial peak they were hard workers adept at plodding at length- ideal qualifications for digging ditches but not for pop stars. This is definitely more of a hard rock album than their past work. They've seen the way the wind is blowing, and it's in the Smashing Pumpkins direction. But all their old faults are present and correct- Wiz's feeble voice, Wiz's feeble lyrics, a tendency to induce distraction in the listener after a minute of every song in the manner of a boring teacher. Hell, what more need I say. This isn't hateful, it's just, well, there. Why?

3/10 JB

Lush: Lovelife (4AD)

Let's nail something right now- Lush are crap. They have always been crap, and will always be crap. Animals have appeared on That's Life with better singing voices than Miki and Emma, and their pallid music is much less fun to listen to than watching them out on the piss. For Christ's sake, when Echobelly ripped off Lush recently they made a better record than the originals have ever managed. That's Echobelly I'm talking about, the band fronted by a BUNAC PE teacher. That good! So if this is Lush's best record to date that really isn't saying too much. The singles you've probably heard- 'Single Girl' and 'Ladykillers' are as good as this gets frankly- thirty year old women sounding like the youth club punk rock group. But the real stinkers are within. The atrocious 'Ciao', Miki's duet with the omnipresent (like God) Jarvis Cocker, thinks it's Lee and Nancy, but remains twee and noncy. The Shadows lift of the terribly feeble '500' and the big dog of a closer 'Olympia' are no better. They sure don't rock, they flop there vaguely reminiscent of some rather better, half digested TV theme After listening to another tale of romantic woe just about forced into a melodic structure I suddenly remembered that I had to make a dentist's appointment. Honest. Some excellent string arrangements (from Audrey Riley, who does the same cover up job on the Terrorvision album) can't hide the sheer lack of anything going on here. Bah! Humbug! Tish and Pish!

3/10 JB
The High Llamas -Hawaii

The High Llamas are the creation of ex-Microdisney member Sean O'Hagan. Their previous album, Gideon Gaye was one Rage's albums of the year and this looks like being in next years list. It's another gem, full of gentle tunes and beautiful melodies. The High Llamas believe in taking things easy, allowing tunes to drift along absorbing the listener along the way.

Since the last album they've added a brass section. Not because they've run out of ideas and thought it might make a change you understand, no, The High Llamas are expanding because it make sense. They are growing in a positive manner rather than the standard 'this songs rather dull here let's add a trumpet or something to make it more exciting.'

The High Llamas have nothing to do with the immediate gratification that the adrenaline fuelled groups of today thrive on. This is a collection of slow deliberate tunes which don't appear to demand your immediate attention. They rely on repetition, gently winning you over, carefully lulling you in to their sublime world. A typical song starts slowly with a minimum of instruments and only as the tune is fully developed do the other instruments create the additional layers. It's a subtle formula but when it works it produces sublime memorable tracks.

The High Llamas have made an album which has bettered their Gidoen Gaye album. It now only remains for the public to buy it.

9/10 CH

Pulp -Countdown 1992-1983 -Nectar Masters

In the days before Pulp headlined the Glastonbury festival and spent their free time mingling with the likes of Oasis and Michael Jackson, they were a small unfashionable group on Fire records. During their time with them they recorded four albums , It, Masters Of The Universe, Freaks and Separations. Pulp left Fire at a time when they were performing a number of unreleased songs which were destined to become hits. Island records signed them, promoted them and today Jarvis' face adorns the tabloid press on a regular basis. Fire, having invested money to record the early albums soon decided to try and collect some investment back. The early albums were reissued. Fire spent some money pushing them, not much, but a lot more than they did when they were first released. Pulp didn't want anything to do with them, they'd moved on and Fire's timing was poor, coinciding with their own new releases. They advised their fans to stay away from them and they did, in droves.

Fire have now licensed the tracks to Nectar records who seem to have made a more reasonable job. For around 8.99 Pulp fans will get a double CD featuring 19 different songs featuring all four Fire albums.

It begins with their final Fire single, Countdown and then moves in reverse chronological order through their early albums. The high point is the atmospheric My Legendary Girlfriend which features Jarvis whispering over a simple uncluttered bassline. There are a number of other songs which serve as a useful history to Pulps development. I want You finds Jarvis attempting a Scott Walker type tune and missing by a fair distance. As the CD develops the tracks get older and older and, consequently, Jarvis' voice gets poorer and poorer. The quality of lyrics also falls dramatically by the time the second CD starts. It begins with the uninspired Dogs Are Everywhere from the Masters Of The Universe album. During this track Jarvis informs us numerous times that the aforementioned canines are ..erm everywhere.

Countdown is a useful history of the band's earlier achievements, or lack of them. Given the price it is a fairly reasonable method of insuring that you are not tempted to by any of their earlier albums no matter how little they cost. The reason Pulp took fifteen years to have a hit single is because the took them fifteen years to write a good song.

4/10 CH

The Beatles - Anthology 2 -Apple

After the debacle that was the first of The Beatles three anthologies few were expecting much from the second. Anthology Two is a great step forward though. It features the period from 1965 to 1968, a time when The Beatles were producing such seminal albums as Revolver, Rubber Soul and Sgt Pepper's. This is not a collection of badly recorded but vaguely interesting tracks selected from a scant number of out takes which typified the first Anthology. This features high quality recordings from an enormous collection of unheard material. The result is a far more listenable album.

So what do you get for your 25 this time? Forty Five tracks of songs recorded in a variety of places and at various time during the writing process. There's live tracks, first takes, instrumentals and a new song, Real Love. Real Love is possibly the worst Beatles track ever to be released under their name. It is a repetitive, undeveloped song which makes Free As A Bird seem like an act of genius rather than the rejected b-side it would have been in the 60's.

After this uninspired start there is a dramatic improvement. The high points are three stunning versions of Strawberry Fields Forever. The first features John Lennon at home recording a raw demo version of the song. The second features the first take in the studio. A much gentler version featuring a shadows type guitar twang which was understandably dropped from the final version. Finally we get take seven, the first minute of which was actually used for the actual release. The rejected part features Ringo going into overdrive and then Lennon starts muttering Cranberry Sauce in the background. The three tracks demonstrate how The Beatles took a simple idea and developed it to the final product.

It would have been interesting to compare John Lennon's original version of Real Love to the final release, however, this opportunity was not granted to us. Probably because the other three didn't add that much to the final recording beyond the obvious. Also just the one version of Real Love is one more than we actually need.

Other notable peaks include the version of Eleanor Rigby which has had the vocals removed leaving just the haunting string section. A Day In The Life has a completely different dream sequence and talking over the end.

Along with the out takes there are four tracks recorded live in Blackpool which feature the first recorded version of Yesterday. This is pre-empted with John announcing 'For Paul McCartney of Liverpool Opportunity Knocks.' The joke is wasted on the hoards of screaming fans in the back ground.

Anthology 2 is more than just an album for Beatle devotees. It's a collection of tracks which highlights their talents to write a good tune. It also presents an insight into the development of Beatles songs. The joy of this album is that the songs don't do exactly what you expect, they have different instruments and vocals. None of the versions featured here are better than the actual releases. The album is more of an education about the ideas that the Beatles rejected and how they picked the best version to release, every time.

Skilfully released at a period which Oasis, are bigger than ever but not releasing much new, Anthology Two is destined to reach the top spot this time.

10/10 CH

Neil Young - Dead Man -Vapour Records

The Brit awards were invented to boost record sales during the post Christmas slump. The fact that many of the records in the top 20 are over three months old is held up as proof that the Brits succeed. The truth of the matter is that many major record companies tend to release rubbish after Christmas and, consequently, they don't sell many records. This album is a good example of what they think that they can get away with.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think that Neil Young is a very talented man who's made a number of great records. This, however, is arguably his worst release ever. It appears to be a thrown together collection of aimless riffs, supposedly inspired by the film, Dead Man. It doesn't say much for the film if it inspires this rather lacklustre effort. There is the odd poem read by Johnny Depp thrown in but this still fails to make it anything near interesting. If you play it in it's entirety more than once you'll be hearing it more times than most people who own it. This album is not a chart contender. Expect Oasis to be at number one for a little longer yet.

2/10 CH

D.O.S.E. featuring Mark E. Smith -Plug Myself In -Coliseuem

Most record companies who put out two different versions of CD singles tend to encourage you to buy them both. One will have the single backed with three live songs the other will have three new songs. The hope that you can't make up your mind which one you want so you think, what the hell, they're only 1.99 each Ill get them both. This of course doubles the sales per person which improves their chances of chart success. This single is out on two different CDs, the difference is that they both feature six versions of the same song.

Mark shouts a lot, there is a heavy techno beat and siren type sounds. Played loudly it makes for a good listen but there is some dispute as to whether the one version would have been enough.

Without the 'new' tracks or 'live' choice to make you're going to have to make your selection from the names of the different mixes. The St Lukes Mixes contain the Disco Hospital Casualty Mix and the Dodo Bassburger Escariot Mix among their six. The Spoonful Of Sugar Mixes feature the Missing Link Symphonic Instrumental mix and 12'' Caligula mix. I won't spoil it for you by advising you which on to go for, just ensure that you hear at least one.

10/10 CH

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