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The Independent Culture
Suggs: The Lone Ranger (WEA, CD/LP/tape, out tomorrow). Bearing in mind that his former band was nicknamed the Magnificent Seven, that this album is called The Lone Ranger, and that it is co-written and co- produced by Tonto (Mike Barson, Madness's piano man), you can rest assured that Suggs is unlikely to scream at interviewers: "Forget Madness! That part of my life is history!" On "The Tune" he even slips in cheeky musical quotes from his old hits, and everywhere there are familiar characteristics: reggae beats, brass, and muttered observations that can flip from light ("A drunken busker hits the pavement sending hot dogs in the air") to dark ("Towards a broken-down bus full of people going nowhere") within a couplet. Though there's progress in the form of dub bass and trip-hoppy distortion - and while oddball re-workings of "Cecilia" and "I'm Only Sleeping" may have fans of Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles stuffing sofa cushions in their ears - Madness devotees can rejoice. Their hero is back on the trail, with his charm, sense of humour and dignity intact. Nicholas Barber

Mick Harvey: Intoxicated Man (Mute CD/LP). Roll over Big Star, tell Nick Drake the news. This year's name to casually slip into music-related conversations is notorious Gallic boulevardier Serge Gainsbourg. Songwriting eminences as various as Black Grape's Shaun Ryder and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker acknowledge him as a formative influence, and now sometime Nick Cave sideman Mick Harvey has supplied a timely English-language introduction to his work for those who have yet to get to grips with the original French. The degenerate allure of such louche landmarks as "Sex Shop" ("Come you little harlot, tell to me how it was between the sheets ...") is by no means lost in translation. And when guest chanteuse Anita Lane supplies a suitably breathy female vocal, on "Bonnie & Clyde" and "Overseas Telegram" for example, the effect is quite exhilarating. Only when Harvey sings alone does the odd problem arise: Gainsbourg's lesser songs now sound like Pulp out-takes. Ben Thompson

Datblygu: Wyau & Pyst = 32 Bom = 1987-90 (ankst, CD only). A timely two-for-the-price-of-one reissue of early works by the Godfathers of the current Welsh lo-fi upsurge. As title-translations like "Lardminds" and "Monkey With Scabs" suggest, the tone is dark to the point of being funereal, but mordant wit abounds and there is even the odd moment of pastoral serendipity. The Fall are an obvious reference point, but heroically embittered singer / writer David R Edwards is a distinctive and compelling voice; and not just because he is singing in a foreign language, rather than merely seeming to as Mark E Smith might. At his best, on "23" and "Dymuniadau Da" ("Intentions of Cattle"), he invokes a funny, sombre kind of magic. BT