Ms Dynamite, Blackalicious, The Young Gods, Orenda Fink, Claire Sproule
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Ms Dynamite/
The Young Gods/
Orenda Fink/
Claire Sproule

[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]

SURELY Ms Dynamite didn't have to pursue the Lauryn Hill parallels to this degree? An invigorating debut, a hiatus, then a turgid, self-important, Bob Marley-wannabe-style follow-up. Judgement Days (Polydor, *) sees her afflicted with what one might call Dolores Cranberry Syndrome - the delusion that, because people pay attention to you, everything you have to say is worth hearing. Ms Dynamite lacks the lyrical firepower and moral focus to take on the entire globe. In trying to do so, she's misplaced the brightness and charm that made her such a good pop star.
 Blackalicious, on the other hand, can back ambition with ability. One of rap's most talented and intrepid acts, they return with The Craft (Quannum, ***), which can be faulted only in that it doesn't quite match its predecessor, the fierce, dazzling Blazing Arrow. But this is still an album of remarkable scope and complexity. Producer Chief Excel has a knack for originating tracks which, while catchy, are seldom obvious; and Gift of Gab continues to live up to his name.
 XXY (PIAS, ****) collects twenty years' worth of extraordinary music from Swiss band The Young Gods, whose sleek and sinister hard rock is created with samplers, drums and the rasping murmur of Franz Treichler. Bridging Kurt Weill and the Industrial avant-garde, they've recorded some marvellous stuff along the way.
 Two songstresses for your consideration. Orenda Fink's Invisible Ones (Saddle Creek, ***) is a self-consciously esoteric indie-pop record and, unusually, all the better for that. Fink doesn't let her experiments compromise her clarity; as a consequence, her album manages to please and intrigue simultaneously. Whereas the self-titled first album from 21-year-old Claire Sproule (Parlophone, *) is accomplished, polished, thoughtful, mature, and utterly unbearable. As if the fluffy avalanche of Didettes weren't bad enough, we must now endure the potentially lucrative soft-jazz/cabaret liltings of aspiring Norah Joneses and Katie Meluas - the rock'n'roll equivalent of weak camomile tea. Apparently Ms Sproule wrote these songs as a teenager. Perhaps needlepoint would have been too exciting?

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