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The Independent Culture

Bob Dylan: MTV Unplugged (Columbia, CD/ LP/tape, out tomorrow). Is that the jingle jangle of cash registers I hear? Well, why else was this album produced? Dylan is not Bon Jovi, thank God, so it's hardly a novelty to hear his material done acoustically. Besides, it has a Hammond organ on it, which is not, as far as I know, an acoustic instrument. As for the tracks themselves, "John Brown" is on no previous Dylan LP, but apart from that it's the hoary hits, "Tombstone Blues", "All Along the Watchtower", "Rainy Day Women . . .", "The Times They Are a-Changin' " among them. Still, which other live album this year will have so many classics on it? The arrangements are full of life, driven along by the aforementioned organ. Dylan's phrasing on "Like a Rolling Stone" is eccentric even by his standards, but elsewhere he offers an ebullient, nicely grizzled vocal. As pointless exercises go, a very pleasurable one. Nicholas Barber

Royal Trux: Thank You (Domino CD/LP/ Tape). Man and woman, both well over average height, require audience for 39-minute wallow in guitar-addled lubricity. However low-down and dirty your musical predilections, the chances are Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hegarty of Royal Trux will still be looking up at you. Hegarty's old band Pussy Galore once covered the Rolling Stones' double album Exile on Main Street in its entirety, so it's no surprise that Royal Trux's sound should be so thoroughly steeped in the sluggish exhilaration of Seventies raunch. The shocking thing about this new record is its accessibility: with the help of veteran Neil Young producer David Briggs, Royal Trux have shrugged off the wilful impenetrability of their earlier work, and now stand just one step to the left of big- shot retro-rockers the Black Crowes. It's an intriguing step though. Herrema's scrawny vocals and Hegarty's emaciated guitar mostly lumber along in cement trainers, so when - as on the hip-swivelling "Lights on the Levee" or the temptingly titled "Granny Grunt" - they break out to dance barefoot, the effect is truly invigorating. Ben Thompson

Vic Chesnutt: Is the Actor Happy? (Texas Hotel, CD/LP). A rich and soothing collection of quirky, dreamlike country/folk ballads from Michael Stipe's mate. NB

Powder: 20th-Century Gods (Parkway, single). The new wave of the new wave of the new . . . oh, forget it. A divine dbut from the band who upstaged Elastica last week. NB

Laurie Anderson: The Ugly One With the Jewels . . . (Warner, CD/tape). Highlights of last year's hypnotic spoken-word show. Campfire tales, except with a vocoder and an electronic violin. NB

Teenage Fanclub: Mellow Doubt (Creation, single). Top-flight Glaswegian harmonists in reflective mood. With added whistling. BT

Annie Lennox: Medusa (RCA, CD/tape). Ten old songs, enterprisingly selected and dramatically revamped. Tim de Lisle