213, Kevin Mark Trail, Mando Diao, Jan Mayen 2005 David Bennun
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Kevin Mark Trail/
Mando Diao/
Jan Mayen

[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]

LOYALTY is an admirable quality. Snoop Dogg evidently has it aplenty. It's hard to think of another reason for the existence of 213, the “rap supergroup” comprising Snoop and his less than stellar chums, the mellifluous Warren G and the altogether useless Nate Dogg. The Hard Way (TVT *, out now) isn't a dreadful album - curiously, it's the best thing in Snoop's recent and dismal catalogue - but it's an instantly obsolete one. It harks back to the G-Funk sound which launched its protagonists over a decade ago, and kicks off with a brace of crackers before settling into by the-yard tedium.
 This frustrating pattern is repeated by Kevin Mark Trail, the singing voice of several Streets numbers. Trail joins Estelle in the ranks of distinctive London R&B acts, but can't maintain the same vigour or consistency. His solo debut, Just Living (EMI, **) features, by my count, two tracks of singular and fragile grace, and nine that slip just the wrong side of the fine line between delicacy and blandness. D Thames and Perspective open the album so impressively that what comes after is all the more disheartening. Still, those two songs alone make the album worth hearing.
 It's a busy week for guitar-pop bands, with releases from solemn Scots Idlewild, OC-themesters Phantom Planet and revivalists du jour Kaiser Chiefs. But the two most ear-catching albums are from less hyped Nordic outfits. Mando Diao are Swedish, and so unashamedly trad in their approach that they may be eligible for some form of heritage award. Fortunately, Hurricane Bar (Majesty, ***) rockets along too speedily, throwing off tunes like sparks, to sink into the retro mire that usually engulfs such efforts.
 If Jan Mayen originated in England or New York rather than Iceland, I'd wager you'd have heard of them long before now. Not that there's much exceptional about their New Wave-ish melodic noise. But on Home Of The Free Indeed (Smekkleysa, ***) they prove they can rock as meatily as any of their more enthusiastically acclaimed contemporaries; and they do a nice line in spite. I'm quite taken with their tribute to Nick Cave, too (“a real motherfucker! Yeah! He's going to mess you up”), mainly because I suspect its recipient might be equally startled by it.

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