Music: Andy Gill's album round-up

PETER GREEN with NIGEL WATSON SPLINTER GROUP The Robert Johnson Songbook (Artisan SARCD002)

Much as I love the bloke - the finest blues guitarist ever produced by these islands, and all that - and much as I sympathise with his problems, I'm afraid this just isn't good enough. It's not so much a matter of guitar technique or performance, but poor vocals throughout, and arrangement decisions which are eccentric, to say the least. Compared to Clapton's comparable retro exercises, for example, which are always neat and efficient, albeit a little bloodless at times, these are just half-baked ideas which don't come off: the gospelly backing vocals on "Phonograph Blues" and "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" are teeth-clenchingly inappropriate, while the sprightly minstrel-band arrangement of "32-20 Blues" is cornball enough to summon up the dark days of British "trad" jazz.

In general, the simpler the tracks are, the better. Those on which Green and Watson just sit and pick are the most rewarding, perhaps because they're closer to Johnson's originals; there's something quietly satisfying about "Ramblin' On My Mind" and "Walkin' Blues", and their version of "Love In Vain Blues" - the same one covered by the Stones on Let It Bleed - has a lovely, lonely atmosphere, right up to the point when those gospel backing vocals come in on the chorus and ruin it. In too many cases here, it's as if someone has come along later and decided, as an afterthought, that what these old blues songs really need is a touch of jessying-up here and there.

CURVE Come Clean Universal/Estupendo


Having watched from the sidelines as Garbage cleaned up (no pun intended) with the exact same musical formula they developed half a decade earlier, Dean Garcia and Toni Halliday have done the sensible thing and re-formed their seminal sampler-rock duo Curve. And judging by the toughened pop gloss of most of the songs on Come Clean, they don't intend to let this second chance pass them by.

Tracks such as the searing "Chinese Burn" and the catchy "Coming Up Roses" are as commercial as any they've recorded, and although it's mostly comprised of the same kind of sculpted noise as their earlier records, there's a more confident swagger to the album - the difference, I suppose, between experimental tentativeness and pop confirmation. The way they're not afraid to borrow familiar melodies, hoisting Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" further into space on "Forgotten Sanity", and placing the James Bond Theme in further peril on "Alligators Getting Up", also speaks volumes about their approach now. The subject-matter covers roughly the same territory as before, too: erotic exhilaration ("Dirty High"); emotional apprehension ("Something Familiar"); and creeping dehumanisation ("Forgotten Sanity"), rendered with the kind of ice-queen chill not heard since Siouxsie Sioux's heyday. A welcome return.

LO-FIDELITY ALLSTARS How To Operate With A Blown Mind (Skint BRASSIC8CD)

The Lo-Fi Allstars' sound is scraped from the streets of Britain, a warped blend of hip-hop, house and rock which

fits comfortably into none of those categories, but adopts the most powerful aspects of each as it barges its way along. Overlaid with "cohesive lyrical maps" sneered out with Lydon-esque contempt by rapper Wrekked Train, these 11 grooves are simultaneously disorienting and seriously propulsive. Though there are obviously influential precedents in the work of Americans such as The Beasties and The Dust Brothers, How To Operate With A Blown Mind couldn't really have come from anywhere else but the UK, so well-fused is the Allstars' musical alloy.

Last year's breakthrough singles "Kool Roc Bass" and "Disco Machine Gun" are both included here, the latter re-named "Blisters On My Brain"; they're as pumped and muscular as any heavy rock riff, and as infectious as a tube train carriage in winter. Apart from "I Used To Fall In Love", on which the rock guitar and burring organ combine a little too leadenly, the rest of the album is equally persuasive: the blend of fuzz clavinet and deep loping bass (courtesy of A One-Man Crowd Called Gentile, possibly the finest name in all of popular music, with the possible exception of Allstars' engineer The Many Tentacles) of "Kasparov's Revenge" is about as funky as white folks get, while the haunting "Nighttime Story" closes the album with a trip down a spooky deep-soul alleyway. The Allstars' pungent remix of American indie-rockers Pigeonhed's "Battle Flag", meanwhile, gives an indication of further possible transatlantic wrinkles to their sound.


(Virgin CDVX2849)

Has the Oxford Social Services Department been informed about the Yorke family? I only ask because Radiohead's Thom and his brother Andy, singer/songwriter with the hotly-tipped Unbelievable Truth, seem to have between them such a limitless fund of melancholy, one can but guess at the sheer hell their home life must have been. The inner sleeve photos in the

CD booklet for Almost Here offer a clear indication of the album's emotional territory, with their snatched glimpses of loneliness - empty rooms, blurred windows, grey sea. In one, the alienation is presumably so intense, a leg has been isolated from its owner.

So too with the music, which also fails to reach the feet, so concerned is it with not having a good time. "Got a problem, I can't solve it," sings Yorke on the opener "Solved", before taking the next 40 minutes to prove his point. Like formula grunge songs, these tracks tend to start very very quietly and intimately, before swelling to a pitch of maudlin intensity for the choruses; except that unlike grunge, there's no release - the pain is never cauterised, because the singer enjoys it too much to ever let it go.

This is the big difference between the Truth and American Music Club, with whom they're often compared: where AMC's Mark Eitzel routinely exceeds the boundaries of emotional discretion, wantonly reneging on the compact of intimacy struck between performer and listener, UT's songs never threaten to break their overly defined parameters. They're just too well-manicured, with their watercolour tints of strings and keys, and their carefully- chosen minor chords, to actually reach outside themselves and move you. More than once, I was reminded of Jackson Browne without the politics.

SIMPLY RED Blue (Eastwest 3984230972)

The sharp, downward curve of Mick Hucknall's recent career continues with Blue, quite the dullest record he's been involved with. It was begun, apparently, as a quickie covers album, but the Huckster couldn't stop himself writing, and nobody else managed to stop him including his new songs. Which is a shame, particularly in the

case of "To Be Free", where he can be found uttering such priceless gems as "To be is to feel and to be real is to see", and the excruciating assessment "To come is so organic unbelievable", which is rather more information than I personally required, thanks very much. Most of the original material suffers an excess of earnestness, not to mention a shortfall of decent tunes, and the mumsy, inoffensive nature of the settings leaves songs like "High Fives", his attempt at Chet Baker-style cool jazz, sounding just insipid.

Sadly, though, the covers are little better: Neil Young's "Mellow My Mind" is transformed here into MOR slush, and "The Air That I Breathe" (included twice, with a "Reprise" version featuring needlessly re-written lyrics) founders somewhere between duty and exultation. The best tracks by far - partly through having the best tunes, and partly through the affectionate conviction with which Hucknall attacks them - are the covers of Dennis Brown's "Ghetto Girl" and Gregory Isaacs' "Night Nurse". Perhaps he should have taken a leaf out of UB40's book and concentrated solely on the reggae covers - there must be enough little gems in The Paragons' back catalogue alone to keep him going for an album or two, surely?

peopleTop Gear presenter and all-round controversialist is at it again
Life & Style
techHow a 'grey brick' took over the world of portable gaming
Aaron Ramsey celebrates after opening the scoring in Arsenal's win over Hull `
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Coren Mitchell, who is the daughter of the late broadcaster Alan Coren and is married to comedian David Mitchell, produced a hand to make poker history at the 98th EPT main event.
peopleJournalist and TV presenter becomes first ever two-time winner of the European Poker Tour
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
food + drinkSprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
politicsLabour launches the 'completely hollow' Easter Clegg
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Last, but by no means least, is Tommy Cooper and the fez. This style of hat became a permanent trademark of his act.
comedyNot Like That, Like This centres on alleged domestic abuse
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Geography Teacher

    £130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

    Do you want to work in Education?

    £55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

    Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

    Day In a Page

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players