ALBUMS / Bang, pop, crash, wallop: Andy Gill on the latest from World Party

WORLD PARTY

Bang]

(Ensign CHEN 33)

Where Goodbye Jumbo dealt with universal political themes, this time round World Party supremo Karl Wallinger deals more with the personal - but, it seems, with just as little satisfaction. Time and again, intimations of helplessness and unrest recur in his songs; even love comes in obsessional bursts which seem to derange him, judging by songs like 'Rescue Me' and 'What Is Love All About?'.

Musically, though, Bang] is a fairly seamless extension of its predecessor, if slightly diluted in places (the single 'Is It Like Today?' is a country-rock pleasantry which almost gets to be 'Put the Message in the Box', but not quite). That earlier album's Beatlesque aspect is still noticeable on several songs - 'All I Gave' is like Jeff Lynne doing George Harrison, and there's a warm, 'Love Me Do' feel to 'Sooner or Later', with melodica standing in for harmonica - while echoes of Dylan, Sly Stone and other Sixties greats bubble to the surface throughout.

At times, Wallinger puts a toe across the line separating him from Lenny Kravitz; but at its best Bang] is postmodern pop done with some elan, particularly on the standout tracks 'Radio Days' and 'Kingdom Come', the latter a jolly revivalist electric hoedown daringly split by a couple of abrupt slow sections: it's like stepping from a club into a cloud.

GARY CLARK

Ten Short Songs About Love

(Circa CIRCD 23)

Formerly the voice of Danny Wilson, Gary Clark is another for whom the greats of earlier times cast giant shadows across the musical landscape. In his case, though, it's such classy figures as Steely Dan and Brian Wilson that provide the influences: 'We Sail On The Stormy Waters', in particular, is one of the more impressive Pet Sounds-alikes of recent years, its carefully layered harmonies arching over an arrangement of graceful Wilsonian oddity, while 'Any Sunday Morning' finds Clark with his Donald Fagen hat on.

Like Wallinger, Clark records at home, overdubbing most of the instruments himself - though there are helping hands from former colleagues Ged Grimes and Kit Clark, among others - and demonstrating particular refinement in his nimble guitar runs. His songs, though, are essentially lightweight, if well-crafted. 'Free Floating' is typical, a jazzy, carefree trifle whose tune evaporates as soon as it concludes. Sometimes, he strives too hard for cleverness - there's a terrible pun about 'the strip of Gazza' in a song about sailing into the blue - though his adaptation of a line from Dylan in 'Baby Blue No 2' is impressively re-routed through his own experience. All very pleasant, if a little too close to Hue & Cry for comfort.

RY COODER & VM BHATT

A Meeting By The River

(Water Lily Acoustics WLA-CS-29- CD)

Of late, Ry Cooder has shown an impressive diversity of interests, from the mainstream rock of Little Village out to the further reaches of the avant garde (his music for the Trespass soundtrack), and now this internationalist pairing with the Hindustani mohan vina player VM Bhatt, whose self-designed instrument adds 12 sympathetic vibrating strings to an acoustic slide guitar, here played alongside Cooder's bottleneck guitar.

Aided by tabla and dumbek percussion - the latter played by Cooder's son Joachim - the two guitarists collaborate on four pieces. Indian flavourings dominate 'A Meeting By The River' and 'Longing', in which Cooder's slide blends perfectly with the delicate tracery and bent notes of Bhatt's playing, while 'Ganges Delta Blues' finds the American's blues licks more to the fore. The concluding 'Isa Lei', meanwhile, has more of an elegant Hawaiian lilt to it and is simply sublime. Apparently, this music was recorded on a Persian rug in a Catholic chapel in the presence of Franciscan monks.

PORNO FOR PYROS

Porno For Pyros

(Warner Bros. 9362-45228-2)

The eponymous debut album from Porno For Pyros continues pretty much where frontman Perry Farrell left off with Jane's Addiction: clattery drums, walkabout bass, splintery guitars, and a petulant screech of vocals that seems designed to put noses out of joint.

If that doesn't succeed, the songs themselves are tailored for outrage, Farrell displaying an eagerness to say the unsayable and inflammatory on songs like 'Packin' .25', which explains the lure of instant street justice in the absence of effective police protection, and 'Black Girlfriend'. As often as not, the songs are just isolated ideas toyed with briefly and then discarded, like the title track which gives the band their name, taken from an advertising flyer for fireworks which fell out of a hardcore porn magazine.

But, for all his bad-boy charisma and offhand offensiveness, Farrell is the most positive of nihilists. He may claim, in the album's opening line, to have the devil in him, but these songs are more like cautionary observations from a society on the verge of breakdown. And there are laughs to leaven the sleaze, as when he considers whether Martians might make a better go of things than humans. 'We'll make great pets]' reckons Perry - though in his case some house-training might be necessary.

CLIFF RICHARD

The Album

(EMI CDEMD 1043)

Here's a 'quality' album from Cliff, to put alongside the Christmas songs and youth club fluff which have comprised his career thus far. The musicians have been dragooned into churning out routine soft-rock on songs with words like 'angel', 'heaven', 'healing' and 'salvation' in the title. 'Only Angel' is Cliff's long-overdue addition to the grisly death-rock genre ('God's got so many angels up in heaven / Why'd he take the only angel I ever had?'). There is room to be concerned, especially in light of recent events, about this irrationalist propaganda falling into the hands of unwitting children. Shouldn't this kind of material be stickered? With a crucifix, say?

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