POP & JAZZ

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The Independent Culture
Maxwell plays the Manchester Palace Theatre (0161-242 2503) 19 Jun at 8pm

That hyper-sexed r'n'b phenomenon called swingbeat seems to be fading, what with the R Kelly rebirth as gospel-clean soulster after his bump 'n' grind old days. And if the macho glare of troupes is less intense now, a contributing factor is the crave for cooler, nu-soul operators, notably D'Angelo, Erykah Badu and Maxwell.

The 23-year-old, Brooklyn-born Maxwell fits the nu-soul tag - his lyrics are thoughtful, he is a one-woman man and with that kinky afro, he retains traditionalist soul values; he'll never be mistaken for Bobby Brown.

Maxwell music is deceptively smooth. His style comprises mellow jazz, Sade-era pristine funk and Marvin Gaye-esque, soul heavyweightiness; a combination that garnered his debut album, Urban Hang Suite, much critical respect. And boy, did the ladies drool.

Thing is, whereas swing boys and girls deal in sex games, Maxwell prefers sensual matters, even in the unequivocal, between-the-sheets time "Till The Cops Come Knocking". All the way down the line it seems he can't help but maintain a certain reserve.

Despite a ladies-man image, this chap of West Indian/Puerto Rican parentage is quiet and private to the point of introversion. At school he was a loner. He dares to have his hair long and natural in a black music business that has been quietly hostile to that, since 1980. His mother never knew he was a Columbia Records artist until she saw a video. And who in Nineties pop soul would dare to write a concept album, which is what Urban Hang Suite is? From initial flirtation, to passionate love, to the vows at the altar, the 11-tracker traces what Maxwell has called a real-life romance. Well, it was true apart from a couple of anomalies: Maxwell didn't marry her and the mind-blowing affair lasted precisely, er, one night. But far from puncturing your image of Maxwell, you're astounded by the tonnage of idealism he's managed to carry it all off with. In fact, he is even more alluring. One man then, to whom R Kelly will not be donating his cast-off leather trousers.

EYE ON THE NEW Another year, another gloom-cloaked, strings-silked Tindersticks album. They bring a welcome aloofness and cinematic artistry to their music, but a few more surprises on third album Curtains wouldn't have gone amiss. Live, though, they are fabulous.

Tindersticks, Bristol Victoria Rooms (0117-954 5099) 20 Jun London Palladium (0171-494 5020) 22 Jun

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