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?

Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The number of GP practices with 10 or more doctors has grown by 75 per cent
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

    Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game