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Sometimes, even the most hardened doubters of Gary Barlow’s MOR entertainer schtick have had to concede that he can write ’em. Cynics can relax, though, because no such concessions are required for his first solo album since 1999, which falls below Barlow’s best – “Patience”, “Rule the World” – at just the point when he needed to up his game.

Wave machines: waterproof MP3 players on test

Music to swimmers' ears or a washout? Simon Usborne tests the new aquatic gadgets

Story of the Song: 'Clocks', Coldplay (2002)

Coldplay's second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, was nearing completion when an excited Chris Martin arrived at the studio late one night. At the keyboard, he played the tune running through his head. Lead guitarist Jonny Buckland was impressed. "He picked up his guitar [a sure sign that he likes a song] and played these brilliant chords," Martin recalls. "It was like a chemical reaction process."

Album: Sigur Ros, Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust (EMI)

Once upon a time, you knew exactly what you were getting with Sigur Ros. That is, otherwordly ambience, heavenly choirs, the tinkling of melting icicles and lyrics delivered in an inscrutable made-up elfin/Nordic tongue.

The song they didn't write? Coldplay are accused of plagiarism by American band

It was all going so predictably well. Coldplay's new album went straight to No 1 on Sunday, selling 300,000 copies in three days; concerts sold out; that iTunes ad was everywhere. Even their notoriously sniffy critics in the music press seemed, with the odd exception, unusually muted.

Coldplay, Brixton Academy, London

Singing does power of good for predictable Martin

Chris Martin gives Radio 4 interviewer the cold shoulder

Chris Martin has long been known as a reluctant rock star, a man who prefers a quiet life of yoga practice and vegetarian dinners at home rather than a red carpet lifestyle.

Andy Gill: 'Why I hate Coldplay'

Pompous, mawkish, and unbearably smug, Coldplay have conquered the charts with the sonic equivalent of wilted spinach, argues Andy Gill. And in the process, they've poisoned an entire generation of British rock music

Album: Coldplay, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (Parlophone)

Coming to a supermarket near you

Album: Coldplay, Viva La Vida, or Death and All His Friends (Parlophone)

Coldplay's X&Y, they've since explained, was the final part of a trilogy – a claim some might consider a cunning defence against accusations that they're a one-trick pony mining a stadium-filling formula to death. Whichever way one takes it, it leaves the globe-girdling anthem-mongers with quite a mountain to climb on Viva La Vida.

Diary Of A Primary School Mum: 'We're desperate for the chance to play teacher'

Miss Perry opens the classroom door, brandishing paper and pen. An innocent enough manoeuvre, only you'd think she was Britney Spears being mobbed by the paparazzi for all the fuss that's made. Mothers, nannies, au pairs all bulldoze towards the piece of A4, and I (shamefully) join the pack.

EMI to axe 2000 jobs

Music giant EMI is to axe up to 2,000 jobs as part of a drive to save £200 million a year, its new private equity owner said today.

Record labels: The Domino effect

One small label has given us the fastest-selling debut album ever, as well as Franz Ferdinand. Alastair McKay investigates

The Third Leader: Right to moan

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