Echo & The Bunnymen/
The Dead 60s/
[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]
HAD HE NOT been plucked by helicopter from the New Orleans floodwaters, we might now be examining the 1970s legacy of Big Star's Alex Chilton. And Big Star, justly described by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck as “the Rosetta Stone”, would have added a curious footnote to that legacy with In Space (Rykodisc**). Lady Sweet and Best Chance are fine songs in the Big Star tradition; and February's Quiet is gorgeous, an instant candyfloss classic. But there's only half an album here at best, the rest comprising insultingly bad jams and doodles.
No such problems with consistency on Siberia (Rykodisc***), from another depleted crew, Echo & The Bunnymen. It may plod a little at times, but Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant still look and sound very much the part. There are very few veterans who remain so convincingly themselves.
Echo need no excuse for sounding like something over twenty years old. And maybe the same's true of fellow Liverpudlians The Dead 60s, but that's not really the problem with their self-titled debut (Deltasonic**). Although when your name itself mocks retro tendencies, being quite this indebted to The Clash's dub tracks and the 2-Tone label is asking for trouble. The real deficiency in these jittery ghost-town tunes is that we heard it all before not just in 1980, but also, so it feels, last week. You need to be better than OK to stand out in this ever-swelling crowd.
The reggae on Trinity (Atlantic**), however, is straight from the source. Sean Paul, the biggest star to emerge from Jamaica in years, has played it safe after the huge success of 2002's Dutty Rock with another album of globally palatable dancehall pop - albeit most of us wouldn't know if the lyrics were personally insulting us, our loved ones and the family dog. The single We Be Burnin' is a belter, but the album doesn't half drag on after a while.
I had much more fun with Blunted In The Backroom (Antidote***), an inventive mix album in which British DJ/production duo The Nextmen take an unmistakably hip-hop approach to four decades of reggae and make old Trojan dub plates seem as fresh as they must have done at their genesis.
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