Give Out But Don't Give Up
(Creation CRECD 146)
WITH Give Out But Don't Give Up, Bobby Gillespie reveals himself to be the rock equivalent of Prince Charles's favourite architect, Quinlan Terry, celebrated and reviled equally as the crafter of neo-classical pastiches. Recorded in Memphis with production legend Tom Dowd behind the desk and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section of Roger Hawkins and David Hood behind the beat, the album offers a series of neo- classical rock pastiches, with many tracks stylistically datable virtually to the day between 1969 and 1972 that they were devised.
As with Terry's buildings, the group's fidelity to old ways and old values in these confusing, post-Modern times is both touching and slightly sad. The single 'Rocks' is by no means alone in servicing the Rolling Stones with an embarrassment of imitation.
Echoing the Stones' most productive period, the majority of these tracks are little more than riffs, the lyrics apparently compiled from a random selection of meaningless early-Seventies catchphrases. The slower numbers like 'Sad and Blue' - slide guitar, weary harmonica - and '(I'm Gonna) Cry Myself Blind' hark back to Let It Bleed-style country-blues. Elsewhere, the tedium of the eight-minute instrumental riff 'Struttin' is barely relieved by the dubsqueals of feedback which are its sole embellishment. 'Funky Jam' is better, a great rubbery funk groove in the Meters' style, with George Clinton drafted in to rubber-stamp proceedings with an appropriate vocal riff. Overall, though, one is left with the feeling that the album would have been little different if Dowd, Hood and Hawkins had been in the studio on their own, so indiscernible is the band's personal musical signature.
(Geffen GED 24634)
IN CONTRAST to the rigidly retro Primal Scream, the twenty-something Los Angeleno Beck Hansen crushes together his influences with little respect for historical or musical fidelity: crudely recorded, this major-label debut combines country- blues stylings with break-beat rhythm loops and erratic sample-collages, with Beck muddying the waters further with vocals ranging from the hoarse to the helpless. It's an unusual blend, way outside the mainstream, but Beck offers an authentic flavour to go with his holy-innocent looks.
Not all the tracks are as catchy as the hit single 'Loser', though several reprise its sloppy slide-guitar stylings and laidback approach. When he can be bothered to arrange his lyrics into something remotely meaningful, Beck favours anti-materialist, anti-macho tirades whose bile is indicated by titles like 'Motherfucker' and 'Soul Suckin' Jerk'.
In its injection of a little swampy rootsiness into rap backings, Beck's album has similarities with Arrested Development's, but in his consistent choice of the more unusual musical possibilities, he's closer in spirit to such American indie weirdos as the Flaming Lips. He could do with a less slapdash, cluttered production style on some tracks, but the rough-and- ready mixes at least allow his enigmatic personality to burst through unfettered by professional studio grooming. And he means to keep it that way, having negotiated a deal which allows him to continue releasing indie products like the recent Telepathetic Astro-Manure album on Flipside Records and last year's debut single, the catchy 'MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack'. A nutter, a true star.
FEW surprises here: always the more sophisticated half of Shakespears Sister, Marcella Detroit uses her first solo album to lay claim to Annie Lennox's mainstream pop- soul crown. Songs such as 'The Art of Melancholy' and 'I Believe' are certainly well- crafted - the latter comes buoyed on yearning Womack & Womack chords - and may turn out to be standards. She's on shakier ground when attempting to persuade us she feels like James Brown: the Godfather would hardly have appeared in a relaxed cabaret setting like this.
'Detroit' is unquestionably better than the celebrity duet of 'Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing' on which she and Elton John lack conviction by the truckload. Her guitar-playing runs the gamut from the tasteful to the tasteless - there are unreconstructed heavy-rock skeletons rattling around noisily in her closet, at a guess - though her blues-harp on a cover of Sly Stone's 'I Want to Take You Higher' is exemplary. 'Prima Donna' closes the album with an apparent send-up of Kate Bush, but one suspects the real subject shares a rather closer sisterhood with the singer.
THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH
(Go] Discs 828 507-2)
PAUL HEATON frequently dons his Elvis Costello hat here, but though his bitter lyrics are often offset by occasionally chirpy little pop tunes, there's ultimately less here than meets the ear. The opening tracks 'Hold on to What?' and 'Good as Gold' lay on the irony with a trowel, bitterly questioning perseverance in the face of misfortune. The latter uses a rinky-dink show- tune style too, to give the lie lumberingly to the repeated line 'Carry on regardless'.
Too much of the album seems directionless, with simplistic comments on racism ('Hidden Jukebox') and sexuality ('Mini- Correct'). Neither is as objectionable, however, as the utterly fatuous comparison of war deaths with Beadle's About. As songwriters, Heaton and the guitarist Dave Rotheray show a greater affinity for the corny, wordy style of stage musicals than for pop, while their attempt at a torch song, 'Especially for You', rings hollow: it claims to be for the lonely and the blue, 'for the day she leaves', but is nothing like the sort of song you would play on that