ALBUM REVIEWS

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The Independent Culture
Hole: "Celebrity Skin" (Geffen) Courtney Love and co have delivered in style on their third album, which is a lot more varied than the platinum Live Through This. Sure, Love howls away to aggressive guitars, but there are also acoustic ballads and the lyrics are even more personal than before. HHHH

Various: "Outcaste too Untouchable" (Outcaste) This second compilation of Euro-Asian fusion is just as good as the first. Standout tracks are by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (remixed by Massive Attack), Cornershop, and Badmarsh and Shri. The "sitaradelic" version of "Jumpin Jack Flash" by Ananda Shankar is worth the price on its own. HHHH

Belle & Sebastian: "The Boy with the Arab Strap" (Jeepster) This Glaswegian eight-piece might be too twee for some, but this is an undeniably brilliant collection of 12 downright gorgeous pop sings. The title track and the Northern Soul-tinged "Dirty Dream Number Two" are better than most things you hear on the radio. HHH

Lambchop: "What Another Man Spills" (City Slang) Starting with some dreamy borderland guitar, Nashville's Lambchop cover ground from sad pop to their speciality of stripped-down Muscle Shoals soul lovingly embellished by pedal steel guitar. They cover songs by Curtis Mayfield and Frederick Knight, but most of the soundscapes come courtesy of Kurt Wagner. HHH

Various: "Rock the Dock" (Creation) Seventeen artists have donated tracks to this fundraiser for sacked Liverpool dockers. With live cuts from Oasis, Dodgy and the Chemical Brothers, plus tracks from Beth Orton and Primal Scream, there's enough here to interest most indie fans, though there's also lots of Liverpudlian music from Cast, Boo Radleys and some unknowns. HHH

SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Buffalo Tom: "Wiser" (Beggars Banquet) The consistently excellent US band is back with this single before the release of their sixth album, Smitten. The musical textures, lyrical canvases and Bill Janovitz's heartfelt vocals are all here on this slow-burning gem which has a chorus that grows and grows. HHHH

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