Pop: Album reviews

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Portishead: Portishead (below; Go! Beat)

If this were the debut Portishead album, it could be hailed as a ghostly charmer, a dark star full of curious experimentation. But Portishead arrives in post-Dummy era of heavy expectation, and they run off with the "Nice Try, But Not Quite There"award. As ever, Portishead are steeped in all things cinematic and elegiac, with Beth chewing her bottom lip and warbling over various unworthy men, but it was almost inevitable that this would be a self-conscious, if still good, little blighter.

LTJ Bukem Presents Earth, Volume Two: Various Artists (Good Looking Records)

LTJ Bukem is up with Roni Size and Goldie as one of jungle's royal family, but this isn't the best place to start for those new to breakbeat compilations. The feel isn't so much hardstep as soft slipper step, the instrumentals sticking to a mellow jazz tip. Nice for Sunday mornings, is the best to be said for it.

Urban Hymns: The Verve (Hut)

After a wobbly history The Verve finally live up to the frighteningly high expectations people had for them for yonks. Vocalist Richard chest- beats for all his earnest worth on balladesque beauts such as "The Drugs Don't Work", but the band equally work magic on power rockers including "The Rolling People". "Bitter Sweet Symphony" is one of the year's best singles, and most importantly, Richard has the finest cheekbones in rock.

Popular Mechanics: Piano Magic (Che)

Moody obscuriosity from Piano Magic, who take as their theme the thumps and whirrs of heavy industry, and make surreal electronica around said sounds. For the art-school crowd and physics students only, methinks.

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