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The Independent Culture
Trainspotting: Soundtrack (EMI, CD/LP/ tape). The Face has already declared that this "could be one of the best albums of 1996" - which just goes to show that journalists will say anything to get themselves quoted on posters. In context, the soundtrack is electrifying. But as an album in its own right I can't recommend it any more than I'd advocate watching the film with earplugs in. Trainspotting boasts three tracks which every right-thinking music lover should already have: "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed, and "Lust for Life" and "Nightclubbing" by Iggy Pop. Pulp's new song, "Mile End" has typically adorable lyrics, if not much else. Further down the line are tracks by Primal Scream and Blur, which are so characterless that in a blindfold test you wouldn't know which bands were behind them. Sleeper contribute an inferior copy of Blondie's "Atomic"; Damon Albarn knocks out one of those cheesy-listening fairground-organ waltzes that you flick past on Blur albums; and there is some techno and ambient background music. The lesson here is that a great film soundtrack does not a great album make. Trainspotting remains, however, The Greatest Film Ever Made. Nicholas Barber

Lou Reed: Set the Twilight Reeling (Warner, CD/LP/tape). And speaking of Trainspotting, there's a bit in the film where Renton suggests that "Some ae Lou Reed's solo stuff's awright," and Sick Boy replies that awright isn't good enough. Maybe, but it's not bad at all. On Set the Twilight Reeling, the rock'n'roll animal settles further into his role of poetic New York new man (his drug of choice on one song being not heroin but chocolate milk). He's droll, Democratic and comfortable, and he quite possibly attends dinner-parties with John Updike and Woody Allen. Again, the instrumentation is whittled down to a three-piece recorded in his broom cupboard. Bolstering the argument against allowing artists to produce their own records, he comes up with one of the worst snare-drum sounds so far, and clicking a couple of fuzz pedals doesn't stop his guitar sounding lifeless. Awright, but with another producer it could have been reeling and rocking. NB

Honey & Rue: Music for Voice and Orchestra by Previn, Barber, Gershwin. Kathleen Battle/ Andre Previn/Orchestra of St Lukes (DG, CD only). Andre Previn has always been a better conductor than he is a composer, and the orchestral song cycle that gives this disc its name is, like most of his writing, a skilful re-cook of established ingredients that don't quite rise in the oven. As a young man, he was just too good an arranger of other men's music to ever get that way of working out of his system; and Honey & Rue spreads itself too widely across the possibilities of all- American style. That said, it's attractive music, beautifully sung by Kathleen Battle, who then moves onto the real thing - Samuel Barber's Knoxville 1915 - with an easy lyricism that belies her difficult reputation. Previn pushes the tempi slightly, but it's a fine sound, warmly wrapped up by the DG engineers. Michael White

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