CD Reviews



What does that title mean? The "modern" bit presumably refers to Ocean Colour Scene's filial devotion to their mod-fathers, the Who and Paul Weller, because there isn't anything modern, in the sense of new or contemporary, about the music. Brendan Lynch, the producer, pastes on some beats and synthesiser squawks here and there, but if these are supposed to bring the group up to date, they're as effective as Barbara Cartland's make-up is at getting her to look like a teenager. Of course, Ocean Colour Scene's anachronisms wouldn't matter if their writing matched that of their heroes, but the songs rarely hang together. Much of the blame must rest on Simon Fowler. His mangled vocals and nonsense lyrics suggest that he doesn't know what it is he wants to communicate - never a problem for previous generations of mods.


It's getting harder and harder these days for the organisers of the Brits to know whether to assign records to the rock category or the dance category. Death In Vegas aren't helping. On their debut album, Dead Elvis, Richard Fearless and Tim Holmes were the Chemical Brothers with less effective PR. But on The Contino Sessions, big beat is out and spiralling, two-chord, space-rock drones are in. The DJs are joined by a conventional live band line-up of drums, bass, funky organ and guitars, and some moonlighting vocalists pitch in, too. Bobby Gillespie lends his Dylan drawl to the zombie march of "Soul Auctioneer". Iggy Pop narrates a murderer's confession on "Aisha", before tailing off into Tasmanian Devil grunts. And the Jesus and Mary Chain's Jim Reid sneers his way through "Broken Little Sister". For Fearless and Holmes, coming as they do from the dance arena, these hypnotic hazes must seem a daring leap into the unknown. But if Death In Vegas had been a rock band all along, you wouldn't see what all the fuss was about. Anyone familiar with the Velvet Underground, Hawkwind, Spiritualized or, indeed, the Jesus & Mary Chain and Primal Scream will find The Contino Sessions uninspired in comparison.




Hot on the heels of Talvin Singh's Mercury Music Prize success comes the new album (the third) from fellow British-Asian composer Sawhney. Actually, "Beyond Skin" failed to be nominated for this year's prize, so its release was delayed in order to qualify for next year's, when, of course, it won't win because Singh already has. Whatever, it's a stunningly crafted set that, whether you categorise it as jazz, dance or pop (which is probably the most accurate description) is still capable of dumbfounding you with the almost embarrassing prodigality of its ideas and the broad range of musical means employed to convey them. You want contexts, you got 'em: nuclear bomb tests in India and Pakistan (with vocal samples of Prime Minister Vaipayee, and Ed Murrow reading a poem by J Robert Oppenheimer which quotes from the Bhagavad Gita); the experience of emigration from India to the UK (complete with the testaments of Sawhney's father and mother); plus, Hindu mythology and a bit of oceanography. The music takes in traditional Indian forms, flamenco, devotional Sufi vocals (from the nephews of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan), hip- hop, rap and soul as well as filmic instrumentals and much much more. Perhaps it shouldn't work but it somehow does, and the result is almost entirely compelling. For all those who complain that this sort of music isn't about anything, Beyond Skin will make a devastating gift.




"How many DJs do you know that's from Russia/ Hip-hop fanatic, label owner and sucha/ record collector, producer and jam promoter?" asks Blade, one of a dozen or so rappers who feature on USSR. Well, the only one I can think of is DJ Vadim, although he's been based in Surbiton since the age of three and I wasn't aware of his interest in jam. But he is a label owner (Jazz Fudge) and the size of his record collection is evident in the samples of exercise tapes, children's songs and those Seventies "experience the wonder of stereo sound" LPs you find in charity shops. The skill with which they are mixed is breathtaking, especially on the epic "How to Exercise the Turntable Record Player", a collaboration with the Scratch Perverts. Most of all, USSR proves Vadim's commitment to hip-hop, and he creates beats for the cream of the UK's emerging talent (and a couple of international names). The album is free of gangster rap's childish self-aggrandisement. When Starvin' Artists' Jupiter Jam and JAE are let loose on "The Pact (Super Rhymes)", and describe their rhymes as "deliberately E-flat/ dripping like English girls' piss flaps" - a line which almost makes me believe in censorship - they are followed by the brilliant Sarah Jones, the only female rapper here, wittily dissing the LL Cool Js and Shaggys of this world. Vadim holds the album together admirably and, although it occasionally veers off into the pretentious and the juvenile, it's a fresh and multi-faceted hip-hop showcase.


As its title suggests, the first album from the Birmingham-based electronic avant-gardists is not likely to win over the anyone-can-make-dance-music brigade. The simple melodic hooks, Casio keyboard rhythms and song titles like "On My Bus", "Be Rude To Your School" and "Summer Plays Out" initially seem fun but infantile. But repeated listenings are rewarded with subtlety and textures which reside beneath the fey tunes. Just as clowns can be scary, there's an air of menace in the Kraftwerk-style atmospherics of "The Greek Alphabet"; and there's melancholy in the down-tempo fairground-ride theme "Press A Key". For Beginner Piano is a chill-pill coated with large amounts of sugar.




Sometimes, when you see the cast list for a big new opera set, your instinct tells you not to bother. And sometimes your instinct is wrong - as mine was with this big new set from RCA. Werther may be a German story (Goethe) but in Massenet's hands it becomes a benchmark of French 19th-century lyricism. It needs good, light, flexible French voices, you might think. They're not obvious in the line-up here, which largely comprises Eastern or Central European artists, with a Mexican lead tenor and a Russian conductor. Warning bells break out all round. But play the discs and you'll be pleasantly astonished. Ramon Varga in the title role is full-voiced, but with sensitivity and taste - almost a second-generation Domingo. Vesselina Kasarova's Charlotte is adorable and heartfelt. Berlin's German Symphony Orchestra is led by the rising young conductor Vladimir Jurowski - known to audiences here for his impressive versatility at Wexford and the Royal Opera - who shapes the whole recording into something that feels right in style and idiom. It's no great compliment in my book to be called a Massenet authority (apart from Werther, Massenet has never caught my ear too keenly). But Jurowski has the makings of it. For someone somewhere, that must be good news.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn