RECORDS / The wedding album: Andy Gill on new releases by Bobby Brown, David Lynch & Angelo Badalamenti, The Flaming Lips, Luna 2 and Carmel

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The Independent Culture
BOBBY BROWN

Bobby

(MCA MCD 10695)

HOW MIRACULOUSLY coincidental that Bobby Brown should release his crucial follow-up to the multi-platinum Don't Be Cruel only weeks after his Hello] photo-spreaded marriage to Whitney Houston. Can her next album be far behind? And would it be too cynical to ask which came first, the relationship or the release schedule?

Brown is the youngest and in many ways the most likeable of all the contemporary MTV-friendly dance acts: after all, neither Jackson, nor Abdul, nor Hammer has ever been arrested on stage for lewd behaviour, though admittedly, it's a miracle that Prince and Madonna have evaded such a charge. Here, Brown starts off in fine fettle with the single 'Rumpin' Around', in which he denies - perish the thought] - that he has indeed been putting it about a bit. Subsequent tracks cover similar territory, but then, nine songs in, he decides he has 'Something in Common' with the duetting Whitney, and the next thing you know he's come over all New Mannish, burbling about how 'the world is in definite need for a change' and how we should 'think about the children'. By the final track, he's utterly emasculated, mooning on to Debra Winans about how delighted he is that 'I'm Your Friend'.

If he doesn't watch out, he's in grave danger of falling at the Great Hurdle of Significance that every young soul singer must vault to prove their maturity: Brown's gone for the Marvin Gaye angle, with one of his two self-produced cuts, 'Storm Away', being all but cloned from Gaye's 'Save the Children'. The rest of the tracks are parcelled out once again between LA & Babyface and swingbeat originator Teddy Riley, whose creeping hegemony means that the LP is flooded with the same beats and drum sounds as Michael Jackson's Dangerous, which may not bode quite as well for sales as might have been thought a year or two ago.

DAVID LYNCH & ANGELO BADALAMENTI

Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me

(Warner Bros 9362-45019-2)

THE RELENTLESS dullness of television since Twin Peaks' demise has given the lie to the popular opinion - voiced anyway only by non-believers - that it was too long, and that once you knew who had killed Laura Palmer, all interest drained from the series. Au contraire: no other series since The Prisoner has left such a lingering after-taste, stripping ordinary TV of its pretensions to entertainment months after it had finished.

Peakies are already salivating over the film 'prequel', Fire Walk With Me, despite the disturbing addition of David Bowie to the cast. This first aural taster finds the air of pregnant unease in the original music replaced by a limp cocktail-jazz - swooning double-bass, brushes on snare, etc - that's generically related but less original, sort of background muzak with a bit of an edge. Initially dissatisfying, it improves remarkably with repeated plays.

Julee Cruise reappears for one track, reprising the original formula, operatic R & B singer Little Jimmy Scott - last heard on Lou Reed's Magic And Loss - adds his idiosyncratic voice to 'Sycamore Trees', and when composer Angelo Badalamenti adds his own distorted spoken vocal to 'A Real Indication', the result closely resembles a mid-Seventies Tom Waits track. Now there's a murder suspect if ever I saw one.

THE FLAMING LIPS

Hit to Death in the Future Head

(Warner Bros 7599-26838-2)

LUNA 2

Lunapark

(Elektra 7559-61360-2)

THE AMERICAN indie scene continues to be denuded by major-label appropriation, which can only be a good thing in the case of The Flaming Lips, Oklahoma's only musical export of any note since J J Cale. Everything about the band - their name, their LP and song titles, their cutely ironic songs, their sleeve design (a psychedelic lavatory) - spells quirky, small- time and perhaps one spliff too many, but the music itself suggests something much more substantial.

From the Butthole Surfers / Sonic Youth end of the avant-rock scene, they marry high wheedling guitar noise with catchy pop melodies and that affectedly off-key singing style that goes all the way back to The Grateful Dead. The sawing cellos and fanfaring trumpets of 'The Sun' suggest more than a passing fancy for British psychedelic whimsy, too, and there's a healthy readiness to incorporate alien elements like power tools into their mutant pop anthems.

The current fad for adding free, unlisted tracks at the end of CDs is taken to absurd lengths with the half- hour two-note riff that concludes Hit to Death in the Future Head, but at the other end of the album, they have a potential hit single in 'Talkin' 'bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants to Live Forever)'. At the present moment, they're just about my favourite band of all time.

Luna 2, an indie 'supergroup' of sorts - containing members of The Chills, The Feelies and Galaxie 500 - also make their major-label debut with Lunapark, but in far less convincing style. This is American college- radio nerd-rock, of the kind perfected by The Feelies more than a decade ago: vocals that are pale and wan, guitars that are bright and ringing, and rhythms that are about as white as they come. They have obviously spent more time than might be considered healthy listening to The Velvet Underground's third album.

CARMEL

Good News

(eastwest 4509-90044-2)

CARMEL ARE apparently popular in France, which is only fitting as the French, famously, don't have a clue about popular music. The songs here sound as if they were written by a committee, and a committee with an inflated sense of its own importance at that. Who else would leave an anti- Thatcher song ('Letter to Margaret') on their album a couple of years after the fact? Or, come to that, consider the clerical politicker Terry Waite an 'Angel'? The same people who would write such a stupidly patronising anti-London song as 'Circle Line', that's who: of all the things that are worth complaining about in the capital, they settle on 'People sitting on a train / Funny how they look the same / Sitting on the Circle Line / Just going round and round.' Insightful, huh?

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