Arts and Entertainment

A sideways look at the world of music

Tricky, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

For many, Tricky will for ever be defined by the genre he helped create. He has always been darker and more threatening than his contemporaries Massive Attack and Portishead, but he can't seem to escape trip-hop, or for that matter Maxinquaye, his defining debut album.

Album: Malakai, Ugly Side of Love, (Invada)

Loved by Lily Allen, signed to Geoff (Portishead) Barrow’s record label and described as “the b-boy Syd Barrett”, the debut album by Bristol two-piece Malakai would be irritating if it wasn’t such a work of wonder.

On and off the rails: Britain's old railway routes are being reclaimed

The destruction of Britain's railway network in the 1960s was a disaster for millions of people. But now, as Simon Calder discovers, some of the old routes are being reclaimed

Je t'aime (again): The French love affair with Serge Gainsbourg

As a new warts-and-all exhibition demonstrates, France has rediscovered its affection for Serge Gainsbourg, the anti-hero who came up with the sexiest pop record ever. John Lichfield reports

A higher calling: Why Bill Drummond swapped rave for choir practice

He founded one of the Eighties' most anarchic bands, and famously burnt £1m in cash. But Bill Drummond's latest scheme is truly ground-breaking, as his diaries reveal...

Interview: Alex Zane

Most of you will recognise Alex Zane from Popworld, Channel 4’s Sunday morning music show. Quite a few of you will recognise him as the quizmaster from Balls of Steel, the comedy show – also on Channel 4.

Caught in the Net by Elisa Bray

Prince, and his label NPG Records, may have made a fuss about fans' YouTube clips of his version of Radiohead's "Creep" performed at Coachella, claiming copyright infringement and asking for them to be removed, but Radiohead has no such qualms about website exposure. As Thom Yorke says: "Well, tell him to unblock it. It's our song". Since then, the band's new song, "Super Collider", performed at their 6 June show in Dublin, can be seen on YouTube, albeit with a very shaky picture.

Album: Martina Topley Bird, The Blue God (Independiente)

Martina Topley Bird's CV of former collaborators is one of the more impressively varied in modern pop: since she was discovered by Tricky way back in the mid-Nineties, her vocals have appeared on records by David Holmes, Mark Lanegan, Primus, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Gorillaz, to name but a few.

Album: Portishead, Third (Island)

Say what you like about Portishead; you can't accuse them of being in it for the money. The easy thing to do, a decade-plus since their much-adored debut, would be to play it safe and offer up 'Dummy' redux.

Portishead, Apollo, Manchester

Glory days are back with a vengeance

Ones to watch: Five of the best new acts

CRYSTALCASTLES

Named after She-Ra’s pad in He- Man, this boy-girl Toronto duo state their influences, via their Myspace page, as murder, blank looks on girls and knives. However true that may be, it’s possibly more helpful to say that their sound is an amalgam of Suicide, Kid 606 and Klaxons, while their employment of Atari soundchips in their keyboards also allies them with the currently voguish chiptunes movement.

First Night: Portishead, Hammersmith Apollo, London

The future is bright after a decade in the darkness

Bristol Time: The return of a trip-hop legacy

The capital of trip-hop is back on track with a slew of new recordings from its Nineties pioneers. By Nick Hasted

Cult Classics: 'Histoire de Melody Nelson', Serge Gainsbourg (1971)

Considered in the UK to be his best recording, Histoire de Melody Nelson continues, thematically, where Gainsbourg's hit "Je t'aime moi non plus" left off. Technically a concept work (albeit barely 28 minutes long), it was recorded in London.

Album: The Blessing, All Is Yes (Cake)

At last, a noisy, thrashy post-jazz combo that sounds like a proper band rather than a po-mo "project". It's the Portishead rhythm section's rockier elements – Jim Barr's thrumming bass guitar and Clive Deemer's four-square drumming – that give The Blessing the legs as a jazz-for-standing-up act, while Pete Judge on trumpet and Jake McMurchie on tenor sax communicate a more sensitive, sitting-down side. They're at their best when both worlds collide, as on "Another Brother's Mother", when the Joy Division bass gives way to a beautiful Albert Ayler-ish motif and screaming McMurchie solo.

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