At times during this follow-up to O, his two-million-selling debut from 2002, Damien Rice comes across like a latter-day equivalent of Cat Stevens or Leonard Cohen, his bedsitter images populated by characters such as "the girl who does yoga", and heavily loaded with emotional turmoil. But instead of Cohen's measured, implacable understatement, Rice applies a bruising method more in keeping with Alanis Morissette, or even grunge - all those quiet, self-consciously intimate openings building to cacophonous, string-drenched climaxes with overwrought choruses. These songs are emotional knots that seem to get tighter as Rice tries to unpick them - though there's less melodic charm involved here, and much greater readiness to luxuriate in melancholy. It's OK for a few tracks, with Rice's knack for an arresting image ("Is that all right? To give my gun away when it's loaded?") sustaining one's interest through the first half's clutch of animal-themed tracks, but by the time of "Me, My Yoke And I" the virtually hysterical pitch of proceedings has leached the album of any remaining traces of enjoyment.
DOWNLOAD THIS: '9 Crimes', 'The Animals Were Gone'