POP: ALBUM REVIEWS

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The Independent Culture
The Beautiful South "Quench" (Mercury) With ex-Housemartin Norman Cook as "rhythm consultant", this is at first hearing a more perky album than their recent stuff. While there are some great songs to rival the recent hit of "Perfect 10", the rest doesn't push any envelopes. HHH

Black Star Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (Rawkus) New York's Rawkus label is at the forefront of the revival of hip-hop crews and the rasping Mos Def is their star turn. The more mellow Kweli acts as a perfect complement and with a wide range of beats this is one of the most innovative hip-hop albums of the year. HHHH

McAlmont "A Little Communiation" (Hut) David McAlmont's solo album eschews the pop of the McAlmont & Butler period and pursues a soul vision. While that voice is on top form, this collection of mostly co-written songs is too laid-back and low-key to appeal to many but the most ardent Melody Radio listeners. HH

The Orb "U.F. Off - The Best of the Orb" (Island) While albums by the innovators of the ambient sound have been rather patchy, `Dr' Alex Paterson's crew have produced many great tracks and singles. Favourites like "Little Fluffy Clouds", "Pomme Fritz" and "Toxygene" are here in various guises and the first 10,000 copies come with a full-length bonus CD. HHHH

Placebo "Without You I'm Nothing" (Hut) The rekindled interest in glam rock won't do mascara-using Placebo any harm. Yet this album with its guitar riffing and intense vocals is more reminiscent of an amalgam of any old US alternative bands from the start of this decade. Despite two smash singles and another couple of possibilities, it's hard work listening to it all. HH

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