Album revews

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The Independent Culture
Blondie "No Exit" (Beyond) Debbie Harry has re-started where she left off - which is somewhere in the miserable, kitsch 1980s. This "pop" album drops in ska, blues, prog, hillbilly, folk and basically every other influence and it's all - with the possible exception of the "Maria" single - painful. A sad and unnecessary album. H

John Mellencamp "John Mellencamp" (Columbia) John(ny) Cougar Mellencamp (to amalgamate his many recording names) is another one who has been round the block and back again. Though he will never attain Tom Petty's stature on those trips, this is a fresh album that captures the excitement of his live act with well- crafted American songs. HHH

"The Prodigy Present The Dirtchamber Sessions Vol 1" (XL Recordings) A mix album by Liam Howlett which comes at a good period for mix albums (David Holmes, Cut Chemist etc). Unsurprisingly it draws on hip-hop and punk, with lots of good scratching, but ultimately the choice of tracks is a little safe and not mind-blowing. HH

Stiff Little Fingers "And the Best of All... Hope Street" (EMI) This studio album shows that, unlike Blondie, Jake Burns (the only original SLF member these days) never really went away. It's likeable but generally unthrilling. Disc two has the hits - some of them great, others a reminder that Rudi were the best Belfast band of the punk era. HH

Various Artists "Outcaste New Breed UK" (Outcaste) Something fresh this week comes in this indie label's presentation of three new artists: Mo Magic, Ges-E & Usman and Niraj Chag. For the most part, it's a contemporary Asian take on chilled drum'n'bass, with some great ambient vocals. A nice sampler for good things to come. HHH


Shawn Mullins "Lullaby" (SMG-Columbia) Once every few years a big, old all-American classic comes out by an unknown (eg Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis") and this Lou Reed-meets-Beck-meets-Bruce Hornsby satire on the LA music scene is just one of those. HHHHH