This week's Pop and Dance releases

TOM LEHRER | The Remains of Tom Lehrer; THE APPLES IN STEREO | The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone; BROTHERS IN SOUND | Family Is For Sharing; ARETHA FRANKLIN | Sparkle ; FINK | Fresh Produce
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The Independent Culture

Tom Lehrer | The Remains of Tom Lehrer (Warner Archives/Rhino) Tom Lehrer liked to introduce himself as Harvard's only 12-fingered perpetual graduate student in mathematics. But while only part of this self-deprecatory statement may be true, what this three-CD box set makes clear is the evergreen nature of Lehrer's songs. Nothing was really safe from his satire. Dixie and the Vatican were two sensitive targets, but so too were the gemütlich pastimes of poisoning pigeons and waltzing. Collecting over 70 recordings made since 1953, with a lavishly illustrated 80-page lyric book, The Remains are proof of what some well-aimed barbs can achieve. Good satire always outlasts the object of its ridicule, but great satire creates a permanent link between the two. Who, post-Lehrer, can discard the images of "The Masochism Tango": "I ache for the touch of your lips, dear/ But much more for the touch of your whips, dear"; or, written at the height of the Cold War, "We Will All Go Together When We

Tom Lehrer | The Remains of Tom Lehrer (Warner Archives/Rhino) Tom Lehrer liked to introduce himself as Harvard's only 12-fingered perpetual graduate student in mathematics. But while only part of this self-deprecatory statement may be true, what this three-CD box set makes clear is the evergreen nature of Lehrer's songs. Nothing was really safe from his satire. Dixie and the Vatican were two sensitive targets, but so too were the gemütlich pastimes of poisoning pigeons and waltzing. Collecting over 70 recordings made since 1953, with a lavishly illustrated 80-page lyric book, The Remains are proof of what some well-aimed barbs can achieve. Good satire always outlasts the object of its ridicule, but great satire creates a permanent link between the two. Who, post-Lehrer, can discard the images of "The Masochism Tango": "I ache for the touch of your lips, dear/ But much more for the touch of your whips, dear"; or, written at the height of the Cold War, "We Will All Go Together When We Go": "When the air becomes uranious/ We will all go simultaneous". It's all delivered with such acerbic panache that such excruciating rhyming schemes can only be admired. Which is just as well, as this set's one brand new song - a Jewish riposte to Yuletide sentimentality entitled "I'm Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica" - enshrines the right to teeth-tingling rhymes in its title. It's a fun song, but it's the mildly savage joy that suffuses the collection that makes this essential listening for curmudgeons and comics alike. LG

THE APPLES IN STEREO | The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone (Cooking Vinyl) In the spirit of High Fidelity, I'd put "Go", by the Apples In Stereo, on my current list of top five side-one-track-ones. A song that deserves a jukebox rather than a CD player, it's a bubblegum garage rock classic, bursting with flute, trumpet, organ and girl-group backing vocals. It also sets the tone for the smartly dumb exuberance that follows. Imagine if the Velvet Underground had gone surfing with Brian Wilson and you'll get some idea of Robert Schneider and co's third album. Also invited the to the beach party are the Troggs, who bring the riffs, and the Beatles, who bring the psychedelic drugs. Be there or be square. NB

BROTHERS IN SOUND | Family Is For Sharing (Regal) Brothers In Sound released their first EP in 1998, but it's taken the trio until now to finish their debut album. No wonder. Sprawling over 68 minutes, Family Is For Sharing is a cinematic soundscape of brooding grooves and lo-fi synth-pop that finds room for a hippy folk ballad, a Beta Band blues shuffle and two remixes. Think of a darker, weirder Air, or of Blur in experimental mood. Impressively, every element fits together: the mesmeric, rainy-day atmosphere and wistfully beautiful melodies are always present. If Brothers In Sound took their time making the album, the finished article is definitely worth taking your time with, too. NB

ARETHA FRANKLIN | Sparkle (Atlantic) When the Queen of Soul released this movie-soundtrack set back in 1976, it was damned with faint praise as yet another brave but failed attempt to live up to her glory days with the Atlantic label. Now, it sounds close to a masterpiece, possibly the last great album Aretha ever made, even though the movie it was appended to sank without trace. As well as producing the recording, Curtis Mayfield wrote all of the songs, a few of which are real classic soul slow-burners. On "Something He Can Feel", Aretha decorates the old-school doo-wop riff with a testifying vocal whose frothy, rococo grace-notes take the song into a soul stratosphere. PJ

FINK | Fresh Produce (N-Tone) Snatches of dialogue from 1950s B-movies, a beautiful remix of "We Are Ninja" by one-hit wonders Frank Chickens, a track about hippos that samples David Attenborough: inspiration appears to come from the most unlikely places for Bristol-born producer Fink. So, although Fresh Produce is grounded by a conventional musicality - there's lots of mellow Rhodes electric piano playing, some horns and wah-wah guitar, a bit of dub, drum'n'bass and other syncopated beats - it also encompasses a huge variety of found sounds. The result is a collection of tracks that are dreamy in the sense that they're both soothing and unpredictable.

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