RECORDS / No ifs, diggity-do, no butts, diggity-dah: Andy Gill, exploring this week's releases, uncovers the latest addition to the long and distinguished line of buttock anthems

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The Independent Culture
DENIS LEARY

No Cure For Cancer

(A&M 540 055-2)

THE funniest of the current crop of American 'shock' comedians, Denis Leary has built up an audience for his high-octane illiberal ranting which, like that of Baddiel & Newman, crosses over into rock 'n' roll territory. A canny operator, he recognises this audience and plays to it, including on this mostly live stand-up comedy album a handful of songs and several references to rock icons.

Leary's version of The Jim Morrison Story, for instance, is a model of brevity: 'I'm drunk, I'm nobody; I'm drunk, I'm famous; I'm drunk, I'm dead.' Well, it's almost that brief, anyway: No Cure For Cancer is one of those comedy albums which would be some way shorter if all the expletives were deleted; and some way less funny, too. The songs include a couple of spoofs, 'Traditional Irish Folk Song' (chorus: 'we drink and we sing and we drink and we die, we drink and we die and continue to drink') and 'The Downtrodden Song', an all-purpose grunge moan, as well as a sociopathic pop song, 'Voices In My Head', which is genuinely likeable and maybe even chart-friendly.

Leary's debut also marks the return of drug humour, after years in which drugs functioned mainly as an index of celebrity piety. But Leary's isn't the dumb stoner comedy of Cheech & Chong; like Lenny Bruce or Robin Williams, drugs fire him up rather than slow him down, and though some of his cocaine riffs resemble Williams's, he can still pull a live one out of the hat when necessary. On crack, for instance: 'I would never do a drug named after a part of my own ass'. Which, you have to admit, is better advice than any offered in government-sponsored ad campaigns. The same goes for Leary's view of unhappy-childhood revelations from such as Latoya Jackson, Axl Rose and Roseanne Barr. 'Life sucks - get a helmet.' It's the truth, and it's cheaper than therapy.

WRECKX-N-EFFECT

Hard Or Smooth

(MCA MCAD 10566)

PRODUCER Teddy Riley's New Jack Swing assault continues, despite a fallow year, with this excellent rap album from brother Markell Riley and Aqil Davidson, members of Teddy's studio team on albums by Guy and others, but here going by the ungainly name Wreckx-N-Effect. As with much modern rap, the delights of Hard Or Smooth are rather less verbal than musical, the words sculpted to fit the backing-track syntax. Riley, mindful of contemporary trends, adds a touch of the pseudo-ragga babble-rap style developed by Das EFX, which introduces a 'diggity-do, diggity-dah' figure into otherwise normal phrases, almost by way of punctuation.

It's a potent brew, no more so than on the single 'Rump Shaker', the latest in a long line of buttock anthems that stretches back through 'Big Ole Butt' and 'Shake Your Booty', probably all the way to Louis Jordan and beyond. The rump-shake in question is represented here by a sample of a squealing starter motor, an example of the wide-ranging musical invention which is still the most interesting thing about rap, despite the recent attempts to popularise the idea of live rap bands featuring real musicians playing real instruments - a retrograde step for sure. Let real musicians at rap, and the next thing you know they'll turn it into jazz-rock.

YELLOW MAGIC

ORCHESTRA

Hi-Tech / No Crime

(Internal INT 828370.2)

APHEX TWIN

Selected Ambient Works 85-92

(R&S AMB 3922 CD)

LIKE the Kraftwerk and Cabaret Voltaire career-remix albums, Yellow Magic Orchestra's Hi- Tech / No Crime is intended to facilitate an innovator's acceptance into modern raving circles. But unlike those, this one casts YMO's work upon the not always tender mercies of other remixers (The Orb and The Shamen among them), not all of whom acknowledge the Japanese trio's suburbanite Muzak origins, imposing instead their own more graceless rhythmic imperatives on the smooth original designs. The result is that YMO here sound just like everyone else, having lost their distinctive oriental flavour, save for a few tracks, like the Zero B mix of 'Firecracker'.

Aphex Twin - the nom de disque of synthesiser whizz Richard James - last year produced one of the landmark works of techno music with the instrumental Digeridoo. The sleeve design of Selected Ambient Works 85- 92, a logo more like an industrial template than anything connected with showbiz, is a measure of the functional nature of the machine- music collected together on this double album. There's little new here to anyone familiar with Kraftwerk's quieter moments, but it's pleasant listening all the same.

WEST NKOSI

Rhythm Of Healing

(Earthworks CDEWV 28)

ERIC AGYEMAN

Highlife Safari

(Sterns African Classics STCD 3002)

WEST Nkosi's aptly-titled Rhythm Of Healing finds the South African saxist / penny-whistler / producer stretching out on a series of instrumentals in the classic Graceland township-jive style (but without Paul Simon as cultural mediator), the only vocals being the celebratory whoops on 'Wedding Vibes'. The great striding rhythms - Mzwandile David is yet another of those extraordinarily propellent bassists the genre throws up constantly - are irresistible, yet spry enough to carry Nkosi's penny-whistle jive without overpowering the frail lead instrument. Rubbery stuff.

Eric Agyeman's Highlife Safari pre-dates the world music boom, being a reissue of a 1978 classic of Ghanaian highlife music. More brash and poppy than Nkosi's mbaqanga, the style features a drastically slimmed-down version of the big dance-band horn section of Fifties and Sixties highlife outfits behind Agyeman's delicate guitar runs and his singer's vocal interjections, with cheesy electric organ and corny trumpet offering extra counterpoint on some tracks. The horns would be less tinnily recorded today, but the style's polyrhythmic infectiousness has lost none of its appeal.

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