ANDY GILL ON ALBUMS

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The Independent Culture
Primal Scream

Vanishing Point

Creation CRECD 178

Back on form after the lumpen boogie retrogression of Give Out But Don't Give Up, Vanishing Point finds careering pell- mell through their own road-movie soundtrack. Named after the nihilistic Richard Sarafian counter-culture fable whose central character is hymned in the single "Kowalski", the album also includes the group's eponymous contribution to Trainspotting, and a couple of moody film-related pieces - "Get Duffy" and "If They Move, Kill 'Em" - done in the imaginary-soundtrack style of Barry Adamson.

It's a hairy ride - a druggy, dubbed-up musical meditation on the classic American outsider concerns of escape and movement, but with few suggestions that the band have much idea of their eventual destination. That, perhaps, is the point: drifting in like Can's "Future Days" and drifting out like the same group's "Bel Air", there is little sense of volition or stability, even when the beats are firm enough to propel the music forward. The ground shifts constantly throughout, with eddies of echo, phase and flanging pulling the grooves this way and that, and an ever-changing instrumental palette that includes bass clarinet, tabla, wisps of sitar and plaintively bleating melodica, the latter courtesy of dub legend Augustus Pablo's first guest appearance.

It may not be as influenced by contemporary dance trends as Screamadelica - the rhythms tend more towards a slouching baggy shuffle, thanks partly to the acquisition of former Stone Roses bassist Gary Mounfield - but there is a welcome reversion to that album's eclecticism after the all- out classic-rock indulgence of their last LP. And if, in the gently simmering soup of influences, there are fewer actual hummable songs than usual, there is a much stronger sense of identity about the project as a whole.

JOHN LYDON

Psycho's Path

Virgin CDVUS 130

Having made a career out of iconoclasm, John Lydon just can't stop himself, even when it works against his interests. Psycho's Path, his first solo album in 20 years, is about as bilious a record as you'll hear this or any other year, but that still doesn't make it much good.

Part of the problem lies in the backing tracks, which are pretty turgid for the most part. But even when Lydon does come up with a passably original groove, such as the Balkan-flavoured reggae bounce of "Stump", he goes and ruins it with the kind of venomous harangue that ensures you won't want to be playing it again too soon, if at all. The dyspeptic lectures to which he treats his audience throughout are one thing, but this invective seems counter-productive - why listen to someone shouting "You ignorant twat!" at you if you're not on a football pitch?

It's the half-heartedness of the (self-produced) music which most disappoints, though. The LP's one undisputed classic, a Chemical Brothers remix of Leftfield & Lydon's majestic "Open Up", serves only to show just how stagnant Lydon's muse has become.

JIM WHITE

Wrong-Eyed Jesus

Luaka Bop 9362-46472-2

Former fashion model, pro surfer, cab driver and Pentecostalist, Jim White proves himself a complete original on this debut, a strange rural blend of deep-river stillness, rustic jauntiness and creepy backwoods weirdness.

To the dry plunk of banjo and guitar, White relates odd, dreamlike stories shot through with religious portents and bizarre coincidences. Apart from the occasional bout of rockabilly excess, Wrong-Eyed Jesus is spookily quiet in tone, with Tom Waits' multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carney providing sundry clarinets, sleazy horns and even mournful touches of musical saw. The overall effect is not unlike what the banjo-picking kid from Deliverance might have come up with if he'd gone to college.

20 MILES

20 Miles

Fat Possum/Epitaph 0302-2P

Just under half an hour long, this offering from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion guitarist Judah Bauer and his brother Donovan ploughs a fairly similar furrow to that group's work with bluesman RL Burnside, comprisingly rudimentary blues thrashes bashed out with more regard for feel than quality.

The packaging carries the drab promise of authentic "folk culture", suggesting the distortion is a deliberate aesthetic choice. The Bauers are primarily concerned with letting the impulse out untrammeled, though there is a point beyond which it becomes a distraction. But there is no denying the primitive drive behind things such as Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Piece of Clay" or "Junkyard Blues", a raw slide-guitar barrage midway between Elmore James and John Lee Hooker.

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