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Fontana 534 769-2

Compared with the meat-and-potatoes style of most current Welsh rock, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci are an epicurean feast for the ears, with arcane instrumentation wielded in the service of oddly beguiling melodies. The jew's harp and harmonium introducing "Diamond Dew", for instance, is a combination straight out of The Incredible String Band's vault of eclectic whimsy, the first of several times in the course of Barafundle when the mystical Scottish folkies come to mind.

It's questionable, though, whether GZM can sustain an entire album of such delicate abstrusion, particularly given their penchant for over-elaborate arrangements and their tendency to lapse into the kind of weedy "la-la- la") choruses more appropriate to a happy-clappy Christian service than to rock'n'roll. Certainly, none of the other songs has quite the instant appeal or catchiness of last year's single "Patio Song", the simplest piece on offer here.

To give them their due, though, the band's lackadaisical hippie manner does seem to accurately reflect the album's theme, which appears to be about the value of naivete and imagination as a response to the modem world: but then, who wouldn't fancy a lifestyle that allows one to be "lazy and free to be whatever you want to be", such as GZM espouse in "Sometimes the Father is the Son"?

Nice work if you can get it, but as with Barafundle itself, rather like the British seaside - a lovely place to visit on the right day, but oddly deflating out of season.


The New Transistor Heroes

Wiija WIJCD 1064

The Japanese cartoon-style sleeve design speaks volumes about Scots punk- popsters Bis's product, which might have been built to order for a culture that exults in ironic western artifice. For all its sound and fury and its claims on youthful attention, The New Transistor Heroes seems mired in a different era, supposedly scrapping away at battles the rest of the world forgot long ago, like those Japanese soldiers discovered decades later in some far eastern jungle, still fighting World War Two.

The group Bis most resemble, in style and sound, is X-Ray Spex, but it's a resemblance bereft of any acknowledgement of what it means to mimic those attitudes in the late Nineties. Not only is the music a shrill imitation of late-Seventies punk (and, on "Everybody Thinks That They're Going to Get Theirs", 2-Tone ska), but the targets are punk targets, too. Bis are always either hammering away at a vapid "yoof" manifesto, as in "Tell it to the Kids" and "Sweet Shop Avenger", or badmouthing uncool characters like the Eighties throwback in "Skinny Tie Sensurround". The anachronistic posturing reaches its nadir of absurdity on "Popstar Kill", a blast of celebrity antipathy ("Hey pop star you look real silly/ I want to kill you now") which finds Bis unwittingly shooting themselves in the foot. It begs the question: when they are stars, should their fans kill them, then? Do they mean it, maaan?



Greensleeves GRELCD235

In Jamaica, Andrew Bradford, aka Buccaneer, is known as The Fourth Tenor after his "Skettel Concerto" of last summer managed the seemingly impossible by blending feisty ragga toasting with large chunks of The Barber Of Seville. His debut album pursues the notion further, with snatches of the "Moonlight Sonata", Blue Danube waltz and the like cropping up every few tracks, either in their own right or as the courtly basis of raps like "Vintage Old Bruk".

Mixing tough-talking social-conscience raps such as "Brick Wall" and "Poverty" with the typical ragga lubricity of the swaggering "Gal Skin Fi Bore", Buccaneer offers a more mild-mannered, moralistic approach than usual in the genre, with "Bad Man Sonata" and "Punky Brewster" scolding the island's would-be gangstas. Not that he's exempt from a little light- fingeredness himself: at no point in the album's credits are the classical segments other than "traditional" which, come to think about it, is exactly how Led Zeppelin referred to all those old blues licks on their early albums. What goes around, as they say.


Elegantly Wasted

Mercury 534 613-2

There's precious little elegance about INXS's tenth album, but plenty of waste. It presents a band apparently no longer able to write songs and increasingly dependent on cobbling together material from bits and pieces of riffs. In theory, that's no problem - the Stones have made a long and comfortable career out of little more than that, and INXS themselves, around the time of Kick, were dab hands at it - but there's no sense of conviction here, and the melody cupboard sounds dusty and bare.

Worse still, several guitar parts sound so utterly uninterested in the proceedings that they could have been faxed in from another continent; and in places, Michael Hutchence's vocal lines are so convoluted one can only imagine he's trying to add a little interest to the songs. Dismal.