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.

Freakpower

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
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders