Arts and Entertainment Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol whose supergroup Tired Pony trails behind according to our critic

“It’s called... ‘The New One’!” announces Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody, promoting his indie supergroup Tired Pony’s second album The Ghost Of The Mountain with a suitably schmindie level of marketing skill.

Rock: After this experience, you'll be Spiritualized too

Instead of being sold in the usual easy-crack Perspex box, the new CD by Spiritualized comes in a prescription medicine packet. The sleevenotes, on a folded piece of paper, list the possible side-effects, while the disc itself lodges aspirin-style in a dimpled white plastic tray, sealed in foil. Whether Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space (Dedicated) is deemed the Album of the Year remains to be seen, but as for Packaging of the Year - no contest.

Babybird Ugly Beautiful Echo ECH CD11: Review

'An increased depth renders the songs more like collective notions than mad imaginings'

And the band plays on

It's one of pop's unwritten rules that great bands tear themselves apart. Yet REM are still here after 16 years. Nicholas Barber asked bassist Mike Mills how they do it

Dances with chickens

Minstrel, martyr, Messiah: Michael Stipe has used video to reinvent himself again and again... and help REM shift a lot of units in the process. By Ryan Gilbey

Deal puts REM in record books

REM, the rock group celebrated for their artistic integrity and socially conscious outlook, have signed the biggest known recording contract in the history of the music industry.

Edinburgh Festival: Four to see

Dealer's Choice (right)

Is sexual identity now a mere entry in the post-modern menu?

Last week, Simon said the grandmother of his best woman friend had "turned lesbian" - at the age of 70. Which got me pondering about "Sexuality not being fixed" and "Desire having no gender" and "What will the neighbours say?", so I took a Tylenol and forgot about it.

Rock: A punk for the Nineties

MICHAEL STIPE throttled his mic-stand, and tossed its lifeless body to the floor. He sat on the stage, lay on the stage, threw John Travolta disco poses, jumped onto monitors, and, for most of the time, jolted and twitched like a malfunctioning robot during that sequence in a science- fiction film when its head is about to explode.

SERVES HIM RIGHT FOR BEING SO GOOD

That's what David Byrne says about Richard Thompson's lack of success. A fine song-writer, a virtuoso guitarist and an affecting singer, Thompson has everything Eric Clapton has, except the fame and the wealth. But now he's getting the tribute-album treatment, and he may just be about to become fashionable

POP MUSIC : What a guy. What a swinger

In case you didn't already know this, Tom Jones - the man with the incredible swivelling hips - is now hip. His audience at the first night of his three shows at the Hammersmith Apollo was full of cool people wearing black clothes. (including Chr issy Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders); his new album (The Lead and How to Swing It) has been produced by men with names like Youth and Flood, and they've got Tom Jones to do some rapping on it. Rapping! The man is 54, and he sounds like he inven ted Nineties dance music.

Departures: REM gig package

TICKETS for the coming European tour of REM are selling fast but places are still available for their dates in Paris and Dortmund. The agency Live] in Europe (0709 839839) is offering four-night packages in each city for pounds 129 or pounds 239, for bus or air travel respectively. A ticket for the gig is included.

ROCK / Out with the old, in with the older

IN 1991, Peter Buck of REM opined that they had 'taken the guitar, bass, drums thing as far as it would go'. Three years on, they have done the same with the mandolin, symphony orchestra, saxophone thing, so it's back to basics with Monster (Warner, out tomorrow).

That's why it's called Noel: Do we get what we're deserve at Christmas? Put it another way: do we deserve Noel Edmonds? Because that's what we're getting. Jim White reports

To the uninitiated it may appear completely baffling. But this Christmas Day afternoon, just after the Queen has addressed her subjects, more Britons will be watching Noel Edmonds's television programme Noel's House Party than will be doing anything else. When he dons a noisy jacket, romps through a cardboard castle of a set and presides over an hour of high-octane jollity, it will, so the predictions run, be enjoyed by nearly 20 million of us.

ROCK / Albums of the year: And then there were ten: UFOrb, REM, INXS . . . Andy Gill condenses the best of 1992

Arrested Development's 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days In The Life Of . . . (Cooltempo CCCD 1929) was album of the year by a short head from the perennially powerful REM. It brought a new, highly articulate sensibility to rap. Like Sly Stone, that earlier radical black hippie whose riffs and choruses provide several of this album's touchstones, Arrested Development blend elements of soul, rap, swamp-rock, blues and R&B into their sound. And like The Family Stone, the rest of the group provide a high-spirited backdrop to rapper Speech's tracts. This is didacticism as fun.
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