ANDY GILL ON ALBUMS

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Republica

Deconstruction 74321 410 522

's single "Ready To Go" proved so successful upon its American release last year that the British release was put back the best part of six months to allow them to secure their handhold in the Stateside market. It's the best thing on offer here, its irresistible drive and spirit seemingly tailor-made to serve as a sports overture.

The rest of this debut album offers much the same Garbage-esque blend of bratty attitude, industrial-strength indie guitar and modern technology, but with increasingly diminishing returns. Singer Saffron has a nice line in the kind of petulance that Americans call "sassy", but it proves somewhat limiting. Titles like "Bitch" and "Bloke" and "Get Off" indicate the favoured attitude range, but it's questionable whether 's fizzing, bubbling synths and danceable drum loops will prove as arrestingly nouveau for techno-hardened UK sensibilities as they have been for less enlightened American tastes.

Van Morrison

The Healing Game

Polydor 537 101-2

Van Morrison albums perch on the edge of a curious paradox, in being both regular to the point of familiarity as regards style, but highly variable as regards quality. Often, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes one a success and another a failure, so constant are Van's themes, and so unvarying his modes. The Healing Game telescopes this paradox into the course of a single album: the usual blend of bucolic metaphysics and R&B, it sounds pretty much like every other Van Morrison LP of the last decade or two, but swings wildly between the majestic (as in the opening "Rough God Goes Riding") and the pathetic (the ensuing "Fire in the Belly"), without it ever becoming completely clear why one track succeeds better than the other.

Most of The Healing Game follows the overly comfortable course of recent Van records, with veterans like Georgie Fame and Pee Wee Ellis offering a cushion for the singer to recline in, and Brian Kennedy and Katie Kissoon on hand to echo virtually his every line. The formula works best on the loose-limbed "It Once Was My Life", a retread of "Under the Boardwalk" in which the falsetto responses add an authentic street-corner touch; more often, though, it sounds dutiful or just plain baffling, as with "Burning Ground", in which Van, Pee Wee and Brian discuss the, er, burning issue of whether to dump a sack of jute on the eponymous burning ground.

White Town

Women in Technology

Chrysalis CDCHR 6120

Jyoti Mishra recently made fun of Island Records, whose rejection slip arrived when his single was already at No1.

An amusing coincidence, certainly, but you can see Island's point: "Your Woman" may have been engagingly human-sized, but there's little on Women in Technology to suggest that White Town won't be joining the noble ranks of the one-hit wonders.

The general style is early-Eighties electro-pop, with tick-tock drum programmes and simple synthesiser lines behind Mishra's plaintive vocals on these slight songs of romantic inadequacy. There's a sketchy feel to most tracks, and the tone of minimal heartache palls long before the end.

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