POP / New Album Releases: Gone to see a band about a dog

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Dog Man Star

(Nude 3CD)

'S second album continues the romanticisation of British teen trash culture which appears to be their life's work. They depict a world in which aimless, disenfranchised youth lie around in bed or wander listlessly about, petrified by amorous failure as they eke out a grim existence in 'pebbledash grave(s)' in 'catalogue town(s)', and seeking momentary release through drugs, dreams and the illusions of glamour.

It's a grim picture, social realism of sorts, but it suffers the fate of all single-issue world views in its disavowal of alternative possibilities: if you're not utterly committed to the teenage-misanthrope view of life, there's little on Dog Man Star to entertain you. It may not be quite as defeatist as grunge, but its reliance on emotional escapism implies an impotence every bit as crippling.

The painful self-absorption of the ponderous ballads which dominate the LP is ultimately just wearying, rather than - as presumably intended - transcendent. The best of them, 'Daddy's Speeding', views James Dean's fatal crash as the archetype for successive generations of rebel- youth defeatism, with all that rot about living fast, dying young and leaving a good- looking corpse neatly captured in lines like 'Crashed the car and left us here / Broken glass for teenage boys trapped in steel and celluloid'.

The more uptempo songs, by contrast, sound just pleasantly generic, with their typically crooned choruses streaked with typically barbed imagery - though, compared to the lissome sway of earlier Suede singles, 'We Are the Pigs' sounds far too forced, a storm in a teacup trauma. And in 'The Power', they make too clumsy a play for generational spokesmen status: '. . . if you're down in some satellite town and there's nothing you can do / Just give me, give me, give me the power / And I'll make them bleed'. How? Why? The rest of the album offers no hint of any but the most abstract form of redemption via celebrity, which perhaps makes Dog Man Star the first auto-critical LP.


No Need to Argue

(Island CID 8029)

THIS time last year, the Cranberries were in the invidious position of touring America as support to Suede while their album was outselling the Great British Hopes' by three to one in that country, on its way to shifting over half a million copies by November, purely on the strength of one superlative single.

There's nothing on No Need to Argue to match 'Linger', though much of it is enjoyably mellifluous in like manner, and overall it's probably a superior work to their debut album. Dolores O'Riordan has a winsome voice indeed, but in places here it's winsome to the point of wincing, as she ill-advisedly builds stylistic tics into gimmicks: her untutored, natural gift, combined with a restless urge to apply it in new ways, results in some tracks being overloaded with those little trademark catches of the throat, so that on 'I Can't Be With You', for example, it sounds as if she's having an attack of hiccups.

There's an idealistic tone to her lyrics, whose simple homilies of hope and innocence have none of the self-reflective subtlety of Suede's. Refreshing for a while, over the course of an LP they can wear dangerously thin.



(Epic EPC 476887 2)

IF PAULA Abdul can do it, why not Naomi? True, Paula may be a hoofer of populist appeal, but Naomi can sashay with the the best of them, and what other qualifications could possibly be necessary for a career as a pop icon?

Babywoman may be partly a vanity project, but Campbell's had the sense to surround herself with talented studio boffins like Tim Simenon (aka Bomb the Bass), Gavin Friday, PM Dawn and Youth, who can marshal such singing ability as she possesses. The most successful tracks are those produced by Simenon and Friday, including the single 'Love and Tears': they surround her with softly propulsive disco grooves which enable her voice to all but slide down without touching the sides.

Youth, by contrast, seems to have regarded the sessions as a bit of a laugh, setting T Rex's 'Ride a White Swan' to a (rapidly dating) baggy beat - not a good idea. Somewhat better is Justin Strauss's 'Looks Swank (Spooky)', which lifts a neat sax line from a James Brown track. As for Campbell's voice, it's technically proficient, but strangely hollow and inexpressive: barely a phrase exhibits the raw excitement that might make you believe it was more than a rote exercise.