James Morrison, University of London, London <br/> The Rapture, HMV, London

As good as Charles and Eddie...?
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The Independent Culture

For the purposes of posterity, let's state one thing clearly, seal it in a watertight time capsule, and bury it in the Blue Peter garden. I know that in 12, maybe even six months' time, James Morrison will be a hated public figure as poisonously ubiquitous as James Blunt or Dido at their respective heights (assuming, God willing, that those heights have now passed by). The name of this 21-year-old Yorkshireman will be a shorthand for Heart FM rock and Tesco soul, a walking antithesis of all that is right and good and true. He's getting there already.

Furthermore, there have been dark murmurings about the veracity of the boy-wonder-from-out-of-the-blue shtick. Despite being heralded as a completely self-made talent, the small print of the credits reveals that Morrison has a crew of professional songwriters who have worked with everyone from Atomic Kitten to, er, James Blunt.

Also, the lyrics he and his team have come up with, while sometimes hinting at the turmoil of his childhood (distant mother, alcoholic father, serious illness, dead friends), are often painfully banal: "Oh life can be strange/Good and bad in so many ways/And things might not always be what they seem..." ("If The Rain Must Fall"). Only twice tonight, with the lines "I've never bought you flowers/I can't work out what they mean" (the breakthrough single, "You Give Me Something") and "Call the police/Coz I've lost control, and I really want to see you bleed" (the encore, "Call The Police") does anything particularly poetic or arresting fall from his lips.

And yet... Like Keane, Morrison possesses a certain something which, if not enough to spare him a pelting with rotten fruit in the village square of pop, ought at least to offer a reason for the tomatoes to be relatively few in number. Perhaps it's just a peccadillo of mine, but I've always been a sucker for vintage-style soul tearjerkers. I loved Charles And Eddie's "Would I Lie To You?", Shara Nelson's "One Goodbye In Ten", Gabrielle's "Give Me A Little More Time" and Macy Gray's "I Try", and James Morrison's "You Give Me Something" - its nagging melody combining with his trying-not-to-cry, trying-to-give-up-the-ciggies voice to powerful effect - is almost worthy of mention in the same breath as that quartet.

The ersatz retro-soulster of whom he reminds me the most, however, is Terence Trent D'Arby, the cocksure Eighties eccentric whose debut album, Introducing The Hardline According To... (as inescapable a chart-topper in 1987 As Morrison's Undiscovered is in 2006), I was besotted with when I was still walking these floors as a nervous fresher.

The similarity is purely a vocal one. Unlike the unquestionably self-created D'Arby, the gonk-faced, scruffy-casual Morrison is no pretty boy, and if he attempted a knee-slide across the stage to the mic stand, it would all end in tears. Indeed, Morrison could learn a lot in stagecraft from a showman like TTD: he ruins the aforementioned big hit by falling silent at every chorus to allow the audience - largely comprised of sandy-haired posh women called Felicity who go "wooh!" a lot - to sing it for him. Son, this is your iconic moment. Nail it. Don't turn it into a cub scout singalong.

Undiscovered is no Hardline. At best, it's a (Paul Young's) No Parlez. But maybe Morrison can shake off the hired help and fully express that inner turmoil next time around. With a voice like his, people will listen.

"OK, just imagine you're in a dark, sweaty nightclub and you're all on E". It's wishful thinking from Luke Jenner, lead singer with The Rapture, whose first touchdown in the UK for two years happens amid the retail racks of HMV's flagship store.

One of the most influential bands of the new century, The Rapture single-handedly made indie rock funky again. Their arrival came largely by word-of-mouth, but we soon learnt that The Rapture were merely the iceberg-tip of a whole scene, with a production team (DFA) behind them which was responsible for all manner of similarly danceable acts.

The Rapture returns to a discofied world which they changed, but which has moved on. Now that 25 per cent of all new indie bands sound at least a little like The Rapture, the real deal - no longer the aesthetic vanguard, and amputated from the accompanying rhetoric - are forced to compete not as groundbreakers, but purely as a groove machine. On those terms, they've still got what it takes. The joy of The Rapture is that you can actually believe they've gone back to the source material - listened to black funk and white new wave in equal measure - rather than merely ripping off the last generation to do so. They're Maceo And The Macks meets Magazine, rather than Pigbag plain and simple.

They open with "Get Myself Into It", the new single on which Jenner has abandoned the Robert Smith wail he used throughout the Echoes album, and instead adopted a pseudo-Jamaican style reminiscent of Sting circa "Walking On The Moon". Not the best-advised move of their career. Fortunately, co-frontman Mattie Safer hasn't followed suit.

"The perfect atmosphere for dancing", Jenner sarcastically notes, staring out at the strip-lit shop-floor vista. But the call-and-response "WAYUH" from forthcoming album Pieces Of The People We Love, and another newie called "The Sound" (showing increased use of Juno synth and mangled guitar FX), either side of "Sister Saviour" from Echoes and "HOJL", prove that, when The Rapture do make it into a dark, sweaty nightclub (Islington the following night, Koko in Camden on 17 October), we won't need to use our imaginations to feel the groove.

s.price@independent.co.uk

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