`The blend of dance and rock unravels to leave some tracks sounding pallidly Britpop, others urgently Prodigious'
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Jesus Jones:


Food; FOOD CD 22

It says something about the volatile state of the British music scene that it's taken Jesus Jones - not so long ago perched upon the very cutting-edge of future-pop - longer to come up with this LP than it took them to record all their three previous albums in toto. It sounds like it, too: most of these songs are well overcooked, and the arrangements involve a disappointing retreat from their former electro-futurist style.

The key to this retreat lies in the opening track, the single "The Next Big Thing". Where once Mike Edwards would have been leading the charge towards a fully digitised brave new world or, at the very least, have known in which direction that future lay, here he seems less certain, unable to get a handle on how to progress: "I couldn't tell you if it's gonna change the world," he says of the notional Next Big Thing, "But I hope to Hell it's gonna change me."

Me too. The songs on Already suggest a desperate casting-around for direction, with the band's previous blend of dance and rock forms, once tightly knitted together, unravelling badly to leave individual tracks sounding as if played by different groups, some pallidly Britpop in aspect, others urgently Prodigious. But when Edwards tries to unite these alternative approaches, as on "Chemical pounds 1", the results are so much duller than before, a generic dance-rock that singularly fails to arouse the adrenalin surge of which he sings.


Blurring the Edges

Capitol CDEST 2298

She's a bitch, she's a lover, she's a child, she's a mother: lists play a big part on Meredith Brooks's debut album. Besides the ticking-off of qualities enumerated in the hit single "Bitch", she has another list, this time of her desires, in the opening track "I Need". Blurring the divide between needs and wants, she sings, "That's all I need/ See how easy I am to please", as the list expands inexorably to include a Mercedes 280SL, a week on an island, and lots of Todd Rundgren. It's doubtlessly "ironic" - in the Alanis Morrissette sense of the term - though at times, listening to Blurring the Edges, you could be reading one of those self- improvement books.

The touches of Chrissie Hynde evident in Brooks's inflection on the single are outweighed over the length of an album by the looming influences of Alanis Morrissette and Sheryl Crow - hardly the most commercially improvident position to occupy, I suppose, though it would have been preferable had songs like "Stop" and "Somedays" not aped them quite so slavishly.

Musically, meanwhile, there's nothing going on that hasn't been fully sanitised for our protection, despite Brooks's penchant for jagged rhythm guitar and funky rock backbeats. Mildly petulant but hardly mould-breaking, Blurring the Edges offers few of the breakthroughs promised by its title.


Under the Covers

Reprise 9362-46690-2

Better known as a songwriter than a singer, Dwight Yoakam takes time out here to record a few of his favourite covers, not always in the way their authors intended. How, one wonders, will The Kinks feel upon hearing "Tired of Waiting For You" rendered as a big-band swing number, with Yoakam emulating the cheesy cool of a Bennett or Sinatra? And can The Clash, even in their weirdest nightmares, ever have envisaged "Train in Vain" taken at a country canter, with accordion adding subtle Tex-Mex touches?

It's not all that bizarre, though: Yoakam's adenoidal twang suits "Here Comes the Night" surprisingly well in its new country incarnation, while "The Last Time" sounds completely natural as a fast country shuffle riding a rockabilly train-rhythm snare. The tracks that might seem most appropriate for his voice and style, however, aren't always the most successful: "Wichita Lineman" is just sloppy, while "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" slips too easily into country-rock lite territory. Judging by Yoakam's treatment of Jimmie Rodgers's "T For Texas" - a country song that he turns into a John Lee Hooker-style crawling-kingsnake blues boogie - he might more profitably have worked against his natural country inclinations on those two songs as well