'Brimful of vim and vigour, it's the sound of glorious spring, of new life bursting out'
Click to follow

Sound of Lies

American Kentucky 01

For their comeback album, Minnesota's Jayhawks offer in Sound of Lies a detailed account of the simultaneous collapses of the band and singer- songwriter Gary Louris's marriage. A break-up album for a re-formed band: oddly appropriate, albeit slightly incongruous.

Reduced to a quartet after the departure of singer-guitarist Mark Olson, the band have also taken steps to broaden their outlook beyond the luxurious country-rock of previous albums. Like Wilco, they've added more pop flavours and textures to their style, and hewn a near-classic from their tribulations. If it's not quite a masterwork to match Wilco's Being There - still the best album so far released this year - it's probably due to the unrelenting nature of Louris's self-pity, which tends to leave the listener feeling like an unpaid, impotent therapist.


Tellin' Stories

Beggars Banquet BBQ CD 190

Tellin' Stories finds the last remaining survivors of the baggy Madchester scene doing a spot of fancy footwork to keep abreast of changing musical fashions, renewing the association with the Chemical Brothers that produced the splendid version of "Time For Livin' " on the Help benefit album. Here, Tom Rowlands's loops are added to some tracks, though you'd be forgiven for missing them: the group might be keen to accommodate dance culture, but the pull of more traditional, early-Seventies influences still dominates their sound.

The album is dedicated to Rob Collins, the colourful keyboard player who died in a car crash while making Tellin' Stories, and his contributions (and those of his temporary replacement Martin Duffy, on loan from Primal Scream) are crucial in determining the slant of several songs, from the piano vamp which turns "One To Another" into "Sympathy for the Devil", to the organ which drives "Get On It" into Blonde On Blonde territory. Though the album's success ultimately pivots on the questionable appeal of Tim Burgess's vocal whine, it constitutes a stirring return to form from a band that many thought might buckle under the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.


Fever In Fever Out

Capitol/ Grand Royal CDEST 2290

Daniel Lanois, better known for his work with U2, Dylan, Eno and Peter Gabriel, seems an unusual choice as Luscious Jackson's producer, but he makes an immediate impression here, capturing the band's relaxed, natural presence perfectly on "Naked Eye", the rap groove that opens the all-girl band's second album and which should, radio-play permitting, bring them their first hit single. It's a sly beauty, dry but slippery, and blessed with a sublime summery chorus.

The rest of the album doesn't quite reach those heights, though it has its moments. The group's blend of breakbeat-style funk drums, indie guitars, downbeat rap vocals, evocative keyboard textures and samples, while more homogeneous than before, still sets up inventive tensions in the songs: the loops and beats of "Don't Look Back" sit uneasily with its tentative guitar chordings, and the mix of jazz, marimba and psychology in "Mood Swing" is gracefully ambitious. "Why Do I Lie?" is another possible single, its engagingly enquiring lyric an example of the inquisitive nature of an album whose arrangements embrace the curiously diverse while their lyrics gently peel away disguises and deceptions. A sexy record, but not Spicefully so.