Pop cd reviews

FINLEY QUAYE | Vanguard TOM MCRAE | Tom McRae RONI SIZE/REPRAZENT | In the Mode
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The Independent Culture

FINLEY QUAYE | Vanguard (Epic) Since Finley Quaye won the Brit for Best Male Artist in 1998, his reputation as a musician has been overshadowed by his reputation as a tabloid loon: getting into fights, checking into the Priory, going out with Paula Yates. Both sides of his character battle it out on Vanguard. Finley Jekyll writes blissfully uplifting, heartfelt reggae. He sings in a mature crooner's voice and he cooks up experimental, psychedelic arrangements. Finley Hyde, meanwhile, has a Shaun Ryderish tendency to forget about melody and structure because he's too busy rhyming Kawasaki with saki and dribbling on about his favourite varieties of bean. Together, Jekyll and Hyde have made a frustratingly half-great album. But even at its most bonkers, the music boasts enough vitality and invention to make you think that without his Hyde side, Quaye wouldn't be half as interesting as he undoubtedly is. Nicholas Barber

FINLEY QUAYE | Vanguard (Epic) Since Finley Quaye won the Brit for Best Male Artist in 1998, his reputation as a musician has been overshadowed by his reputation as a tabloid loon: getting into fights, checking into the Priory, going out with Paula Yates. Both sides of his character battle it out on Vanguard. Finley Jekyll writes blissfully uplifting, heartfelt reggae. He sings in a mature crooner's voice and he cooks up experimental, psychedelic arrangements. Finley Hyde, meanwhile, has a Shaun Ryderish tendency to forget about melody and structure because he's too busy rhyming Kawasaki with saki and dribbling on about his favourite varieties of bean. Together, Jekyll and Hyde have made a frustratingly half-great album. But even at its most bonkers, the music boasts enough vitality and invention to make you think that without his Hyde side, Quaye wouldn't be half as interesting as he undoubtedly is. Nicholas Barber

TOM MCRAE | Tom McRae (DB)

Tom McRae's pained yelp and desperate, raging bitterness would qualify him to join any of the current post-Radiohead wrist-slashing bands; if he'd only invested in a few effects pedals we'd be comparing him with JJ72. Instead, the 26-year-old from Suffolk has opted for pianos, cellos and intimate, Nick Drake-style acoustic guitar picking, and he's already been hailed as an important new folk-tinged singer-songwriter. (Scott Walker recently invited him onto the bill of the Meltdown Festival). Rightly so. McRae's snapshots of spite and urban paranoia are hard, minutely sculpted gems. "If words could kill," he snarls on "The Boy With The Bubblegun", "I'd spell out your name." Yes, it's all a bit furrow-browed, but if it's a fiercely intense, chilling mood you're after, then seductive tunes and lyrics that actually mean something are worth a dozen blustering guitar solos. Nicholas Barber

RONI SIZE/REPRAZENT | In the Mode (Talkin' Loud)

It's strange that if you fuse drum'n'bass with jazz, which is commonly perceived as difficult and esoteric, you get a melodic, accessible album like New Forms. But if you fuse it with hip-hop, the most successful music of the last decade, you get an aggressive and less enticing album like In The Mode. It is, of course, brilliant. The programming is detailed and sophisticated, but the results are energising rather than cerebral. It's music that demands to be played at full volume at all times. Which is why it's ultimately less successful than its more varied predecessor. There's very little of that organic, live instrumentation; vocalist Onallee, the collective's only female member, also has less to do this time round. Instead, Dynamite proves he could carry a whole album with his rhymes and there's guest vocals by Method Man and Zack from Rage Against the Machine. As frenetic, angry, testosterone-driven music goes, this is among the best. Laurence Phelan

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