POP: ALBUM REVIEWS

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The Independent Culture
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Wilco "Summerteeth" (Reprise) By adding their own enigmatic twists to a foundation of Byrds-Beatles- Beach Boys influences Wilco have come up with 1999's first essential rock record. The golden voice of Jeff Tweedy is splendid throughout on both summery pop classics and heartbreakers. There's always a need for a classic American band and Wilco are it. HHHHH

Van Morrison "Back On Top" (Exile/Virgin) On his new label debut, Van bludgeons his way through a jazzy blues opener and it doesn't sound good nor does his whingeing about unauthorised biographies but as always there are some great melancholy moments of the type only he can deliver. Unlikely to increase the fan base much though. HH

The Roots "Things Fall Apart" (MCA) Probably the world's most technically proficient hip-hop crew, the Roots aren't massive because they don't pander to gimmicks like the Fugees or other `gangstas' do. Such integrity is welcome and this album has so many wonderful twists and turns it will be resident on your decks for at least a week. HHHH

Stereophonics "Performance and Cocktails" (V2) Although they're from small-town Wales, the 'phonics sound a lot of the time like Rod Stewart backed by Pearl Jam. It works though and the band's subtle rhythmic twists plus thoughtful and thought-provoking lyrics make this an accomplished album that could send them into the biggest band in Britain category. HHH

Waco Brothers "Waco World" (Bloodshot) Estranged Welshman Jon Langford leads this Chicago-based bunch of boozed-up louts on a loud trip into the entrails of country's underbelly to give that genre a good poke. This is their fourth album and the heaviest-sounding one to date. HHH

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