Pop and dance reviews

WORLD PARTY | Dumbing Up (Seaview) MIKA | Mika (Klein) VARIOUS ARTISTS | US Stax Singles 1968 - 1975 (Stax)
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The Independent Culture

Robbie Williams' hit "She's the One", was written by Karl Wallinger, aka World Party. I doubt he'll follow it up with a smash from Dumbing Up. World Party's middle-aged jazz-pop can be appealing - particularly to fans of Sting and Dire Straits - but the Beatles and Bob Dylan imitations are the most shameless ever recorded. And if the album's title suggests that Wallinger is pompous and self-regarding, then "Always On My Mind", the clumsy, eight-minute, pseudo-poetic closer, confirms every fear. Anyone who rhymes "liberation" with "crustaceans" while keeping a straight face shouldn't boast to the press that "This album's all about words". NB

Robbie Williams' hit "She's the One", was written by Karl Wallinger, aka World Party. I doubt he'll follow it up with a smash from Dumbing Up. World Party's middle-aged jazz-pop can be appealing - particularly to fans of Sting and Dire Straits - but the Beatles and Bob Dylan imitations are the most shameless ever recorded. And if the album's title suggests that Wallinger is pompous and self-regarding, then "Always On My Mind", the clumsy, eight-minute, pseudo-poetic closer, confirms every fear. Anyone who rhymes "liberation" with "crustaceans" while keeping a straight face shouldn't boast to the press that "This album's all about words". NB

MIKA | Mika (Klein)

Mika are a new German duo, Lena Wilhelm and Sarah Strauss, who make music that is rather hard to describe. Some of it has a retro, synth-pop feel, with Kraftwerk as an obvious reference point. Some of it is just pure pop, although the vocodered lyrics sometimes sound as though they've been badly translated. Most of it consists of rather off-kilter house. "Tomorrow" and "Enthusiastic" stand out for their infectious basslines, simple melodic hooks and the enthusiastic vocals of the group's teenage friends. On the whole it is playful, eclectic, occasionally irritating - and it dispels the myth that Germans have no sense of humour. LP

VARIOUS ARTISTS | US Stax Singles 1968 - 1975 (Stax)

If, for some inexplicable reason, you don't already own The Staple Singers' "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)", Isaac Hayes's "Walk On By", or "My Baby Specializes" by William Bell and Judy Clay, this could be your chance to catch up. Even if you do, you'll still almost certainly need "(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown" by Rance Allen, one of the all-time great dressing-up-to-go-out songs (it's about God, naturally). While some of the 23 tracks come from what might be seen as the decadence stage of the Memphis label's history, the rhythms remain almost impossibly spring-heeled, the vocals effortlessly soulful and the productions crisp and clear. PJ

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