Pop Albums: 'There is no distance, irony or even anger in Smith's responses here, and the overly indulgent lament for Kurt Cobain - "About a Boy" - does little to relieve matters'

Patti Smith

Gone Again

Arista 74321 38474

This first release since 1988's comeback album Dream of Life, this is effectively an extended bout of mourning for Smith's husband, the former MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith. Opening with the title-track, a real Viking send-off rooted in the Group's classic drone-guitar clangour, the album moves through a variety of responses, with Smith eventually reaching some sort of accommodation in the stoic solipsism of "Wing", with the realisation that "I was free/ I needed nobody/ It was beautiful". By the concluding "Farewell Reel", even the most sympathetic listener will probably have had enough.

Unlike Lou Reed's musings upon death in Magic and Loss, there is no distance, irony or even anger in Smith's responses here, and the additional, overly indulgent lament for Kurt Cobain, "About a Boy", does little to relieve matters. One is left feeling a little too intrusive into someone else's grief, as if having wandered by mistake into the wrong funeral. Smith acknowledges the danger of her doomy absorption in a suitably apocalyptic cover of Dylan's "Wicked Messenger", pointedly emphasising the line "If you cannot bring good news, then don't bring any". Not that it's stopped her, of course.

There is no shortage of stylistic variety here, though. "Dead to the World" is a sort of spooked hoe-down, "Fireflies" is a lilting lullaby and "Ravens" possesses the kind of hillbilly menace that might make it a candidate for the next Nick Cave covers album. In place of the melodramatic sonic architects who helmed her earlier records - John Cale, Todd Rundgren, Jimmy Iovine - Gone Again is produced by long-serving guitarist Lenny Kaye with Malcolm Burn, who helps bring a more intimate presence and depth to the arrangements, most successfully on "Beneath the Southern Cross", an ode to non-being (!) in which Tom Verlaine's almost subliminal lead guitar notes can just be discerned, delicately rippling the meniscus of Kaye's hypnotic rhythm guitar. It's a beautifully understated piece. The most genuinely affecting song here, however, has to be "My Madrigal", a simple and uncluttered statement of marital devotion whose chorus - "Till death do us part" - is lent extra poignancy by her own bereavement.


More of Everything...

for Everybody

Fourth & Broadway BRCD 619

An enormous, quantum-leap improvement on 1995's debut, Drive-Thru Booty, this latest from Norman Cook and Ashley Slater's Freakpower almost single- handedly resuscitates the notion of Brit-funk following the slough that disaffected funk purists will henceforth refer to as "the Jamiroquai years". With nary a floppy fur hat or Stevie Wonder lick in sight, More Of Everything...For Everybody strikes out from its Seventies roots to embrace today's rhythms and technology in the most infectious funk blend of the year so far.

The start isn't all that promising - a standard fade-in intro vamp with bleepy dub synth effects and the phrase "Take a little trip through your mind" repeated over and over, like every half-wit rap album, before the actual song ambles along a couple of minutes into the track. From there on, it's virtually straight aces: stalking techno-funk in "New Direction", Sly Stone-inflected struts in "Let It Go", rolling Southern funk in "KK Nuns", and anthemic grooves in "One Nation One Ride", all tracing a dynamic parabola from measured start to mental conclusion.

With occasional hints of Latin rhythms here and there, I'm reminded of what LA street-funkers War might have sounded like with access to modern sequencer and synth technology.

The philosophical demands of the genre are well met in "Giving Up Government Drugs", a singalong as friendly and floppy as its advice - basically, advocating the withdrawal of one's patronage from the excise system by kicking nicotine - is simple and effective. As for the romantic demands, the slinky electric piano funk of "Husband" comes complete with Slater's whispered intimacies and a saucy promise - "I'll kiss you where your husband won't" - which suggests he's thinking of somewhere quite disgusting. Rotherham, maybe.

Fun Lovin' Criminals

Come Find Yourself

Chrysalis 7243-8-35703-2 4

Beastie yobbos from NYC, these Fun Lovin' Criminals make a fine old funky jazz-rap mess on this debut album, blending ebullient good humour with a white gangsta tradition that at one point finds them serenading the imprisoned "dapper don" with the chorus "La-di, da-di, free John Gotti". Despite such questionable allegiances, this is one of the most infectious rap albums of the year, boasting a range of musical influences way beyond the narrow confines of tired old G-funk, and re-introducing rap to its roots in the blues.

"The Fun Lovin' Criminal" opens proceedings with a typically self-aggrandising statement of intent - "I'm like John Steed/ I steal your girly, I steal your weed" - built on the kind of funky acoustic guitar groove Beck might favour, studded with oddball horns. Elsewhere, a speeded-up Lynyrd Skynyrd vocal sample and "Smoke on the Water" power-chords carry "Bombin' The L", and blues harmonica and slide-guitar bowl "Bear Hug" along irresistibly. Pulp Fiction's Honey Bunny makes her presence felt on "Scooby Snacks", on which the trio ponder the effects of "runnin' around robbin' banks all whacked up on Scooby snacks"; and somewhere along the way, the Criminals offer up a dead straight cover of "We Have All the Time in the World", just for variety's sake.

The only time they come close to serious is on "I Can't Get With That", a caustic look at political divide-and-conquer strategies which alleges "They try to move us, to use us/ Like Judas did Jesus, to please us/ Diverting the issues to misuse". That's a momentary aberration, however - for the rest of its length, Come Find Yourself comes down heavily on the side of fun and mischief, as befits a bunch of lads "up to no good, with no place to go but down". Whether they have another album in them remains to be seen, but just for the moment, only the terminally uptight could fail to find something of themselves in the Fun Lovin' Criminals.

Booth and the Bad Angel

Booth and the Bad Angel

Fontana 526 852-2

That's Tim Booth, singer with stadium new-wavers James, and Angelo Badalamenti, composer of Twin Peaks, with assistance from former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. An intriguing mix, on paper at least, and substantially more interesting, as it happens, than the last couple of James albums. The single "I Believe" is indicative of the territory covered: the same vaunting, anthemic approach familiar from Booth's work with James, but with Badalamenti's arrangement bringing a less cajoling attitude to the music. "Why be a song when you can be a symphony?" asks Booth, not impertinently.

If there is an overall theme to the album, it's to do with Booth's own version of the sexual sacrament as proselytised by guilty sinners from Al Green to Prince, with plenty of sexual and religious metaphors illustrating the eternal pull between body and soul, and love returned to an ecstatic presence. This finds its most dynamic musical form in the qawwali-style vocals of Chloe Goodchild on "Dance of the Bad Angels". Butler is for the most part a less commanding presence than we've come to expect, scrawling trails of distortion through "Life Gets Better" and "Heart", and restricting himself elsewhere to rather diffident embellishment. Despite Booth's penchant for appalling puns - as in "How do we know your smile's/ From the dolphin, not the crocodile/ The porpoise of this sickness is to get better" - it's a much more coherent collaboration than might be expected from such disparate talents.

808 State

Don Solaris

ZTT 0630-14356-2

Their first album in over three years finds 808 State's methods unchanged and - an introductory minute of musique concrete aside - their music following much the same furrow as before.

It's better than the tired and dreary Gorgeous, for all that, with subsequent techno developments added to their armoury - items such as a drum 'n' bass beat here, a squawky Chemical Brothers-style bassline there.

The listener still can't help but feel a sense of overcrowding about some tracks, though; "Joyrider" uses no fewer than five different bass sources, and stirs up a great big syncopated MIDI soup of percussion, but the sax figure which tops it all off - the musical focus of the piece - is too mundane to sustain interest.

The same sense of misdirected energy applies to "Lopez", on which the sterling work of guest vocalist James Dean Bradfield (of the Manic Street Preachers) is spoilt by an obtrusive snare drum trying to impose a sense of funk where it isn't necessary. However, 808 State do manage some delightful strategies elsewhere, as when the breathy soprano sax and belching bass clarinet of "Black Dartangnon" loom out of the enveloping keyboards like the mythic inhabitant of some fantastic bestiary. For this moment, the machines are cowed by this ghostly presence.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?