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Black Grape: It's Great When You're Straight ... Yeah! (Radioactive, CD/LP/tape). In 1992, the pills, thrills and bellyaches finally got too much, and the Happy Mondays imploded into a greasy puddle of scandal. No one would have expected Shaun Ryder's comeback to make more of an impact than the Stone Roses' did last year. No one would have expected it to make more of an impact than a sponge dropping into a bath, for that matter. But that, you will be flabbergasted to hear, is what has happened. Ryder, his skeletal sidekick Bez, and Kermit of the Ruthless Rap Assassins, have made a rowdy, scrapping, splurging stew of a record. If you've heard the singles you'll know the general gist. For all the variations - rap, ragga, a honk of Stevie Wonderful harmonica, a guest appearance from the Smiths' guitarist who wasn't Johnny Marr - it's an album of boisterous baggy grooves and carefree word-play. Ryder's vocals sound like Roland Rat, and his cultural kleptomania seems incurable: no prizes for spotting the nods to "Let It Be", "Sympathy for the Devil", "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", and the slogan for Cresta fizzy drinks. It all adds up to an irresistible pop extravaganza. Not only will you keep listening all the way through, without fast-forwarding any tracks, you'll go back to the start again. Joyful and triumphant indeed. Nicholas Barber

Pet Shop Boys: Alternatives (Parlophone, double CD/LP/tape). From just about any other pop group, a B-sides collection would be a distinctly underwhelming prospect. From the Pet Shop Boys, however, it is almost too much to cope with. As Chris Lowe points out in the course of an extensive and informative sleeve-note interview, the Pet Shop Boys have never approached the B-side as an obligatory throwaway, but rather as a chance to stretch themselves. Listening to these 30 songs all together, removed from their original context, is at first rather like trying to assemble fragments from 30 different jigsaws, but gradually you realise that there is really only one puzzle. And that is: how could anyone fail to be beguiled by a duo equally at home with the raw bedsit pathos of "I Want a Dog" and the hilariously overcooked, pre-WW2 Balkan pop epic "Don Juan"? All together now, "King Zog, back from holiday, Marie Lupescu is grey". Ben Thompson

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