This Week's Album Releases

EURYTHMICS
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The Independent Culture

Who'd have thought it would take the Eurythmics to demonstrate how far pop standards have fallen in the era of boy- and girl-bands? But that, along with a confirmation that the duo's whole is so very much more than the sum of their parts, is what one takes away from Peace. For all the virtues of Annie Lennox's albums - we'll draw a discreet veil over Dave Stewart's solo work - there's still nothing on them to compare with the opening salvo of tracks here, which are as good as any of their career. Specifically, there's an overwhelming wave of joy to songs such as "I Saved the World Today" and "Power to the Meek" that cuts straight through the tide of plastic sentiment that forms the usual pop currency - a boundless enthusiasm that enables them to carry off the notion of feeling "17 Again" without undue embarrassment, sounding natural even when quoting lines from their own "Sweet Dreams". It can't last, and once they slip into more mawkish territory mid-album the quality dips sharply, despite Stewart'

Who'd have thought it would take the Eurythmics to demonstrate how far pop standards have fallen in the era of boy- and girl-bands? But that, along with a confirmation that the duo's whole is so very much more than the sum of their parts, is what one takes away from Peace. For all the virtues of Annie Lennox's albums - we'll draw a discreet veil over Dave Stewart's solo work - there's still nothing on them to compare with the opening salvo of tracks here, which are as good as any of their career. Specifically, there's an overwhelming wave of joy to songs such as "I Saved the World Today" and "Power to the Meek" that cuts straight through the tide of plastic sentiment that forms the usual pop currency - a boundless enthusiasm that enables them to carry off the notion of feeling "17 Again" without undue embarrassment, sounding natural even when quoting lines from their own "Sweet Dreams". It can't last, and once they slip into more mawkish territory mid-album the quality dips sharply, despite Stewart's attempts to disguise matters with the redundant Pepperisms of "Forever". But for the first few tracks, they sound like worldbeaters again.

BERNARD BUTLER Friends and Lovers (Creation)

This second solo album from Bernard Butler is as bitter a disappointment as any this year, reneging on the promise shown on his debut, and all but abandoning any pretensions towards musical progression the former Suede guitarist may once have harboured. In short, Friends and Lovers takes a huge retrograde step in the direction of the faded-denim "dadrock" favoured by the likes of Paul Weller and Ocean Colour Scene. It's as if Bernard fancies himself as Britain's answer to Lenny Kravitz, despite apparently having only a fraction even of Lenny's slim talent.

Track after track fails to make the crucial jump from riff to song, while his attempts at singing on things like "No Easy Way Out" and "Has Your Mind Got Away" (sic) are whiny and maundering rather than distinctively soulful. The mystery is how things were allowed to deteriorate so badly; perhaps, wary of his waspish demeanour, nobody was brave enough to tell Butler this simply isn't good enough. Let me oblige: on this showing, he's a rotten singer, a negligible songwriter, and most worryingly, a severely depleted guitarist too.

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