Pop: Album Reviews

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The Independent Culture
Tom Waits (Epitaph) His first album in almost seven years and quite possibly the one with the widest appeal. Waits's trademark eccentricity and variation of style is still there, but pervading this excellent work is a strong feel of rustic blues exemplified by the gorgeous "House Where Nobody Lives" and the chilling "Georgia Lee". HHHHH

Catatonia `Equally Cursed and Blessed' (Blanco Y Negro) Cerys Matthews' appeal is no basis on which to judge this band's indie pop. Awful rhyming couplets abound, the lyrics generally are sixth-form fodder, and three albums of that screeching voice is certainly one too many. HH

The Cranberries `Bury The Hatchet' (Island) The Cranberries also possess a lyrical notoriety, but O'Riordan (even if she does it lay it on thick) has a great voice and the band can pump out pop melodies seemingly to order. Sure, it slips into bland MOR but they do what they do most competently. Another global hit for Ireland. HHH

Joi `One and One Is One' (Real World) This East End outfit are credited as the pioneers of Asian breakbeat fusion, yet this is their first proper album. With a strong sense of ambient and eclectic club vibes, the Asian influence is truly fused rather than grafted on and, as such, this is an incredibly accessible and appealing album. HHHH

Faith Hill `Love Will Always Win' (Warner Bros) Like Rimes and Twain, Nashville's Faith Hill has been repackaged and remade to compete with big hitters such as Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. She does so averagely. "This Kiss" is the only good pop moment and the ballads are nothing special. HH