Thrash and bubblegum have always made a lovely couple. Kurt Cobain's ideal pop group was a hybrid of The Monkees and Black Sabbath, and it's hard to argue with that; Nirvana was within sight of it. But Bob Mould has always come closer. File Under Easy Listening is his latest stride forward.

Husker Du exploded out of Minneapolis at the turn of the 1980s, playing games with hardcore, their shiny pop melodies cranked up by Mould's angry, ringing guitar and urgent bellow of a voice on such slabs of joy as Land Speed Record and Zen Arcade. Live, they were magnificent. Major label status followed but it wasn't quite the same. After the band fell apart, Mould ticked over with a couple of solo albums before he refocused his energies and formed Sugar (right). The immaculate Copper Blue two years ago was followed by the six-track Beaster, which sank the vocals in the mix, bringing out the diamond-hard guitar. On FUEL the guitar still sings but the vocals are back on top, with tunes that could indeed have been delivered by Mickey Dolenz.

FUEL was started twice over - a series of unhappy sessions were interrupted by news of Kurt Cobain's death which prompted Mould to freak out and erase the tapes. It doesn't show, although it is a game of two halves. The first side (for the vinyl tribe) is in classic Mould style: hard-driving and glistening, full of should-be No 1s like 'Gift' and the pure-Sixties 'Company Book' (written and sung by the bassist, David Barbe). A melancholy air makes the second side less immediately gratifying, with its softer, acoustic feel, which is not to deny Mould his subtleties. I just like it when he steps on the gas.

Sugar: album: File Under Easy Listening; single: 'Your Favourite Thing' (Creation). Live: 2 Oct, Brixton Academy (071-924 9999)

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