ANDY GILL ON ALBUMS

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Apollo Four Forty

Electro Glide in Blue

Stealth Sonic SSX2440CD

Even if you've not heard of , you've heard them anyway. Whenever a sports programme or magazine show does its contents run-down, more often than not it's 's music fizzing away behind the images. The most omnipresent such piece has been "Krupa", on which a loop of the celebrated jazz drummer is used as the foundation for a punchy interlude in something like a Chemical Brothers style.

Electro Glide in Blue offers a state-of-the-art array of such moments, from the introductory string fantasia of "Stealth Overture" through to the Morriconesque keyboard figures of "Pain in Any Language", which features the last recorded vocal of Billy Mackenzie, tied up as usual in melodramatic knots of romantic devastation. That track's quintessentially European flavour, however, is only one facet of their style; for unlike most of their techno peers, have managed to devise a kind of musical esperanto which should find huge cross-border appeal even in America, courtesy of the slide-guitar assault of "Altamont Super-Highway Revisited" and the Led Zeppelin lope of "Tears of the Gods".

They can even, when pressed, cram all their influences into a single track. The current single "Ain't Talkin' Bout Dub", for instance, is a dazzling exercise in omnivorous street-consciousness, its jungle-accented techno groove studded with barbed-wire guitar samples from Van Halen, the whole topped off with a ragga-style toast. Whether you're from Harlesden or Hollywood, they're speaking your language.

AEROSMITH

Nine Lives

Columbia

The title presumably refers to Aerosmith's traditional tendency to live life dangerously near to the knuckle, although in the case of this album, the fallout seems to have left the band intact while taking out everyone around them. In swift succession, they managed to sack or otherwise misplace their A&R man, their producer, their manager, and ultimately the first version of Nine Lives. This version, as recorded by Journey producer Kevin Shirley, does however bear the scars of its troubled gestation. It roars off at maximum horse-power with the title-track, but swiftly lapses into the blustery pomp-metal of the single "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)", as contrived as its title suggests.

It's largely downhill from there, I'm afraid. The sheer panache of Pump and Get a Grip has been lost, replaced by a slightly desperate-sounding rush through the heavy metal style-book, touching successively on power ballad ("Hole in My Soul"), eastern-tinged scale ("Taste of India"), anthemic drinking song ("Full Circle"), punky thrash ("Crash"), half-hearted blues ("Pink") and several other variants too tedious to mention. More depressingly, there seems to be a self-referential subtext to much of the album, dealing with the temptations of hedonist recidivism in coy, out-of-character manner when a more direct, confrontational approach might have paid dividends. The result is that they wind up whining "Where do fallen angels go?" as if hoping there might be some alternative to the biblical answer. It's hell, guys.

MY LIFE STORY

The Golden Mile

Parlophone CD PCS 7386

Accusing My Life Story of kitsch is like criticising water for being wet, really; but there's really no greater ambition to Jake Shillingford's 12-piece ensemble, which wields its horn and string textures with none of the diverse ambitions of previous orchestral-pop auteurs such as Scott Walker or Love. Like a Christmas tree in January, The Golden Mile is strung with the tarnished tinsel of 1995's short-lived easy-listening "boom", its cheesy arrangements desirous of nothing more, apparently, than to make your mum's toe tap.

If one plays with kitsch, too, one must inevitably suffer its shortcomings, specifically the inauthenticity of emotion available to Shillingford's songs. With his wry, heavily punning lyrics, he clearly fancies himself as coming from the next pod along to Jarvis Cocker. But where Pulp's music offers sympathetic cinematic accompaniment to Cocker's observations, the hokey Radio 2 MOR tootlings of My Life Story bracket everything between glaring quotation-marks of irony, setting the songs at least one remove from conviction. Ultimately, the method works against them: when, finally, on "November 5th", they try to touch upon something genuinely moving, they've cried emotional wolf so often it's hard to credit the album's best song with the sincerity it deserves.

DANNY ELFMAN

Soundtrack to Mars Attacks!

Atlantic 7567-82992-2

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Soundtrack to Lost Highway

MCA / Interscope IND-90090

The title-sequence to Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!, with its flotillas of hubcap flying-saucers closing in upon this island earth to the strains of Danny Elfman's berserk score, is one of the wonders of the contemporary cinematic age, almost worth the price of admission alone. Thankfully, the rest of this soundtrack album follows in much the same vein, like some demented cross between The Sorceror's Apprentice and Carmina Burana liberally doused with wibbly theremin noises. It's the perfect musical metaphor for warped intergalactic imperialism, and as if that weren't enough to recommend it, there's even a track titled "Ungodly Experiments" too.

The soundtrack to the forthcoming David Lynch movie, Lost Highway, is notable for being the second such commission accorded Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, whose excellent choice of music and dialogue for Natural Born Killers made the resulting soundtrack album a vastly more enjoyable - not to mention coherent - exercise than the film itself. Here, Lost Highway's Hitchcockian premise is plausibly rendered through judicious chunks of noir-jazz from Barry Adamson or Angelo Badalamenti, interspersed with suitably dystopian blasts of pre-millennial industrial pop from such as Bowie, Reed, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins and NIN. Though not quite as wide and colourful a tapestry as Reznor's previous soundtrack, nor as seamlessly stitched together, it's worth investigating for the passages by Badalamenti and Adamson, which are as sharply evocative as you'd expect

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