REM step up a gear

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WITH their new album Accelerate, amazingly the band’s fourteenth studio outing, REM may again be back on track.
After stalling somewhat with their two previous, ponderous offerings, Reveal and Around The Sun, Accelerate heralds a return to form of sorts for the group.
True, nothing on this album stands up next to their glory days – and at times the album sounds like a pastiche of the likes of New Adventures In Hi Fi or Automatic For The People – but who else is producing mainstream alternative rock of that quality these days?
Hopefully this is the sound of a band moving back up through the gears once again.

Gnot bad

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GNOT to have heard of odd couple Gnarls Barkley by gnow would be crazy.
The peculiar pair – Cee Lo Green and Danger Mouse – gnot only hijacked 2006’s singles chart for almost a fifth of the year making Crazy the biggest hit for a decade, but have featured in projects as varied as Gorillaz, Kelis, Danger Doom, The Rapture, Goodie Mob, Carlos Santana and Lil Kim.
So it’s gno surprise that most of The Odd Couple, out on March 24, is a professional, polished piece of hip hop and soul.
What is a surprise is that there is gno outstanding track in the ilk of Crazy that you could pick out instantly, and on some tracks, such as Going On, Danger Mouse’s production is almost off kilter.
The result is an album that, while pleasant enough, is probably gnot going to send the charts loopy again.

Frock rock five – Killer tunes

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IT’S a mystery to me how The Kills manage to come across so aloof yet so intriguingly smutty.
Heaven knows, if I could do it, I would – I only seem to manage arrogant and annoyingly childish.
However Midnight Boom, the trans-atlantic pair’s third long-player, is effortlessly dirty as a mudwrestler yet remains cool as a frozen cucumber.
American singer Alison Mosshart’s Karen O-esque vocals drip over Brit guitarist Jamie Hince’s gritty, no frills guitar work throughout the album as if the pair could at any moment down tools and get both slapping and tickling.
No wonder then that the half of the group that is Hince has bagged himself a supermodel in the form of Kate “musician, you say” Moss.
Midnight Boom has also had the critics drooling, only over tracks like Cheap And Cheerful, Tape Song and URA Fever, and is set to deservedly explode into the mainstream to boot.

Frock rock four – Breeders produce another

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DESPITE The Breeders track record and evident pedigree, the 1993 hit single Cannonball continues to be a weighty millstone around Kim Deal’s neck.
Despite a promising start, Mountain Battles never recreates the form shown on Last Splash or in the band members’s other projects The Pixies and Throwing Muses.
Not that The Breeders are ready to be put out to grass just yet – tracks like Bang On, Istanbul and No Way demonstrate that there’s plenty of worth in Mountain Battles, and followers of The Breeders will be satisfied at what is an increasingly rare outing for the group.

There’s just too many disappointments in between holding the album back for the casual listener.

Frock rock three – Pet sounds

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PUNK revivalists Be Your Own Pet’s second album Get Awkward is like reliving your formative teenage years all over again.
Singer Jemina Pearl Abegg’s cutesy yet gutsy voice is perfect for this blistering collection of primal pop songs about subjects such as lust, violence and school.
In fact, here in the UK we are lucky to have three songs included – Black Hole, Becky and Blow Yr Mind – that were deemed too extreme for the US market.
So with Abegg’s brilliant frontwoman turn and the band’s undeniably brilliant garage rock backing you’d think you’d be on to a winner…
But in actuality the subject matter both makes Get Awkward and lets it down.
Like being a teenager was, at times it’s exhilerating, and other times cringeworthy, and after one trip through it, you wouldn’t really want to go back and do it all again, would you?

Frock rock two – Brooding music

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This Gift, Sons And Daughters’ third album released in January, is a progression for the four-piece indie folk rockers.
A good deal heavier than their previous stuff, the bands pulse – a trademark tubthumping beat – is sounding stronger than ever.
In fact on This Gift some of the tracks almost sound glam with the guitars laid over the stomping beats.
However while the band have learnt to rock out, at the same time there is evidence of a new-found restraint when needed, which adds more maturity to their new songs.
And although sometimes, but not often, this exuberance spills over into the land of cheese, highlights such as title track This Gift, Iodine and album bookends Gilt Complex and Goodbye Service show the Glaswegians have a lot more to give.

Frock rock one – New Shoes

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AT PRESENT a glut of new or nearly-new albums by female-fronted bands have left rock’s musical compass pointing towards the oestrogen.
The first of these frock-wearing rockers are Blood Red Shoes, a two-piece made up of 50 per cent womankind in the form of Laura-Mary Carter, a Kate Nash with knuckledusters type (as well as Steven Ansell, who cares about him).
Leaked on the internet back in November 2007, Blood Red Shoes’ glorious debut Box Of Secrets – which has spawned five singles already – is still to be officially released, although it is finally due on April 14.
And it can’t come soon enough – Box Of Secrets is a real haymaker of an album, landing you with hook after hook in the form of punky grungey rock songs like Say Something, Say Anything and You Bring Me Down.