RECORDS: New Releases

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The Independent Culture
Morrissey: Southpaw Grammar (RCA, CD/LP/tape). Strangeways here he is. The prospect of Morrissey making an album which out-snarls Metallica sounds as likely as him recording an 11-minute expose of teacher abuse that suggests a John Barry film score with nasty great scabs on. Truth is, he's done both on his RCA debut. Not that you'd notice him. Southpaw Grammar is driven by co-writers Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, whose guitars are currently on a drip in intensive care after the battering they got in the studio. The opening epic "The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils" is remarkable for its grandeur and menace, sustained by a sinister orchestral motif and a cavalcade of grinding feedback. After that, everything sounds tame. The jaunty "Reader Meet Author", which indites middle-class writers with working-class fixations, brings to mind glass houses and stones. "Dagenham Dave" is an Essex Lad joke five years clear of satire and a good riff short of decent rock'n'roll, while "The Boy Racer" takes Morrissey's obsession with teenage ne'er-do-wells to Larry Clark proportions ("We're gonna kill this pretty thing/ He's just too good-looking"). But at 10 excruciating minutes, the closing "Southpaw" is a diabolical bleedin' liberty, as us Essex Lads would say. This is the Morrissey we've learned to grin at and bear: two parts inspiration, two parts desperation, and a licence to give you a whopping great migraine. Ryan Gilbey

Nitin Sawhney: Migration (Outcaste, CD/LP/tape). "We are British Asians, privileged by our cultural ambivalence ..." With these words, Nitin Sawhney provides both an apt introduction to a rich, diverse and imposingly coherent record. He also supplies a suitably heavyweight motto for the independent label for which this album marks an auspicious debut. An insistent Asian classical pulse shifts easily into a loose-limbed jazz-funk lope and back again (and that's just the first song). And yet Sawney's music somehow manages to avoid the ethnic pot-pourri tendencies of many a pan-global hoedown. It not only has a point, it has a beat, and, from the ambient agit-prop of "Bahaar" to the bass-heavy clank of "Market Daze", it's a beat the mind delights in marching to. Ben Thompson

Krzysztof Komeda Quintet: Astigmatic (Power Bros, CD, distributed by Harmonia Mundi). Extraordinarily good recording, made in 1965, by Roman Polanski's soundtrack composer and pianist (who died in 1969), reacting to recent American innovations and anticipating the European experiments of the ECM label by a good 10 years. Also features wonderful trumpet solos by Tomasz Stanko. Phil Johnson

Abdullah Ibrahim Trio: Yarona (Enja-Tiptoe, CD). A stately run through a few of the South African master's greatest hits, in the trio format with which he graced London last year. Recorded live at Sweet Basil in New York. PJ

Buju Banton: 'Til Shiloh (Loose Canon, CD). After the homophobic "Boom Bye Bye" of three years ago, it's reassuring to know that bad boy Buju has undergone a miraculous religious conversion, praising Jah and singing the praises of the poor just like his reggae elders and betters. The gloriously deep voice is still on song, though, and this is a cracker of an album, with his dance-hall hit "Murderer" among the many outstanding tracks. PJ