Stereophonics, 50 Cent, The Bravery, Lemon Jelly 2005 David Bennun
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50 Cent/
The Bravery/
Lemon Jelly

[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]

THERE are critical darlings. There are critical red-headed step-children, routinely and unjustly spanked by reviewers. And then there are Stereophonics, who deserve every brickbat they get - and resent it far more keenly than an act with sales measured in metric tonnes ought to.
 Another such pummelling would be as tedious as the band's own doctrinaire, thick-fingered rock. So I'll simply note of Language. Sex. Violence. Other? (V2, *) that (a) it updates their Seventies muso leanings with an unexpected transfusion of Achtung Baby-style thrust; and (b) even so, I'd sooner eat it than ever again play it. It's differently dull. Slightly new sound, same old monotony. Same old success, too, no doubt.
 What do you do when you've conquered mainstream hip hop? Unless you happen to be OutKast, the answer, it would seem, is “repeat yourself”. While nobody expected 50 Cent to come back with an album's worth of symbolist poetry set to Andean noseflute music, we might still have hoped for better than the long, limp re-run of Get Rich Or Die Tryin' that is The Massacre (Shady, *).
 50's trademark lackadaisical mumble is only ever as good as the tracks behind it. Replicating the feel but not the immediacy of In Da Club and P.I.M.P., his production teams have left him embarrassingly exposed. Hear that, 50? It's the sound of your returns diminishing. Everywhere, that is, bar the cheerfully ringing tills. No further need to die tryin', evidently.
 As the bones of the Eighties are picked ever whiter, inevitably the scavengers would sniff out the half-hidden musical remains of electropop duo Blancmange. Unless, on their self-titled debut, New York's The Bravery (Loog, **) inadvertently arrived at that sound via the same process, twenty years later. There's more than a hint of Duran Duran and The Human League in their plangent, discofied urgency and their strained, vaguely British vocals. The opening An Honest Mistake is a belter, and is succeeded by eleven passable but lesser variations. In that much, they're unarguably modern.
 A quick nod to Lemon Jelly (Brighton Dome, ***), whose early-Nineties techno sampledelia is warm and reassuring as a familiar woollen rug. But it's the lavish and lovingly confected visuals that made their latest tour a treat.

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