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The Cure: Galore - The Singles (1987-1997) The only thing stopping this being an essential release is the complete plunge in momentum for The Cure in the last few years. When they were at their peak they were the best. The band who launched a thousand indie-dance discos across the land, then dragged UK alternative rock from pokey clubs to US stadiums, changed the adolescent world simply by penning the most succinct student- love pop songs. The way the likes of "Catch" and "Just Like Heaven" make your heart pogo should put Cure main-man Robert Smith up there with Morrissey as a legendary figure in British pop. HHHH

Echobelly: Lustra (Echo) Things definitely went a bit weird in the world of Echobelly this year, for not only did the bassist leave during the recording of Lustra, their third album, but second guitarist Debbie Smith departed abruptly on its completion. Unfortunately, it is left to vocalist Sonya Madan to provide the charm for this modestly nondescript affair. Her voice is imbued with its characteristic purposefulness and sly sensuality, but is only matched by the tune on the starkly atmospheric, "Here Comes the Big Rush". HH

Black Grape: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid (Radioactive) Destined to be Loaded magazine's album of the year, given that Shaun Ryder's men-behaving-badly philosophy seeps from its every pore, but the band manage to be irrepressibly funny with it. "Get Higher", with its doctored samples featuring Ronald Reagan, is the launchpad for a hedonistic album that never loses an opportunity to be seedy ("Dadi Waz a Badi"). Best of all, compared with Gallagher's lyrics, Ryder's win hands down. He's not only a brilliant survivor, but damn clever too. HHHH

Led Zeppelin: BBC Sessions (Atlantic)

A double-album nostalgia trip which would be a thrill if it didn't quake so much with pomposity and self-importance. It has taken 25 years to prise these Zeppelin recordings from the claws of the BBC, and most of the favourite dinosaur tunes are here, resplendent with Jimmy Page's guitar pyrotechnics and Robert Plant's caterwaul. But this is the Nineties, and our Nineties sense of irreverence and irony does wilt their appeal somewhat.HHH

Angela Lewis

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