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Tiger: We Are Puppets (Island, CD/LP/tape). A last- minute arrival at the album-of-the-year ball (or at least at the new-band-of-the-year disco), Tiger are a Berkshire five-piece who haven't let their musical limitations prevent them from making a distinctive debut LP with so much bounce and colour that they should have called themselves Tigger. We Are Puppets consists of 12 spiky pop songs that quiver with buzzy-fuzzy guitar and one-singer synth lines, like the noisier tracks from the first Modern Lovers album, except with Dan Laidler's fearless yelp careening over the top. Although Tiger have their own brand of new-wave loopiness, other bands they bring to mind include the Pixies, the Ramones, Elastica and Super Furry Animals. This last comparison is especially fortunate, given that the band's name has already prompted the appearance of more wildlife puns in the press than any new group since Skunk Anansie. Nicholas Barber

Johnny Cash: Unchained (American, CD/LP/tape). The second of Cash's collaborations with erstwhile Beastie Boys henchman Rick Rubin, Unchained is less demanding than 1994's heroically austere American Recordings but every bit as essential. From Beck at one end of the chronogical spectrum to Jimmie Rodgers at the other, Cash walks tall through half a century of great American music, confirming himself as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the interpretative rumble. Cash's choice of material is so inspired, and his leathery lar-ynx in such immaculate order, that even the involvement of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cannot spoil the party. Ben Thompson


Steve Reich: Proverb, Nagoya Marimbas, City Life (Nonesuch, CD). These three works from the past three years show Steve Reich not exactly staking out new territory - we're talking minimalism here - but certainly turning over his old ground with results that manage to sound fresh, even when you know where they came from. The big piece is City Life, a landscape- into-art score afterthe example of Varese and Cage, building textures of baroque complexity from street sounds, conversations, and assorted urban aural debris loaded into sampler keyboards. Nagoya Marimbas is a development of the blurred-vision marimba duets Reich was writing in the Sixties and Seventies with the two players moving in and out of phase. And Proverb is a Hilliard Ensemble-style rapprochement between the serenely distant past (Perotin and French 12th-century vocal music) and the enigmatic contemporary present (Wittgenstein and vibraphones). It all makes good if not always deep listening, warmly recorded and stylishly done by Steve Reich's own Ensemble, with guests. Michael White