Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: "Murder Ballads"

Mute, LCD STUMM 138 (59 mins) Dial a track code: 1201

Australian arch Goth Nick Cave has based his entire musical output on exploring the darker side of the human psyche, and this new album takes his fascination to its logical conclusion. Madness, destruction and violence have always been there - just check out your old Birthday Party records - but this time Cave has gone right to the edge of the gallows, creating a record which, lyrically at least, matches Tarantino and Peckinpah for sheer poetic carnage.

Like an experienced pulp film director Cave creates a bizarre story with each song, casts an unsavoury list of characters to play out the drama, then sits back and watches the body count rise. If Murder Ballads was made into a movie, you'd probably avert your gaze from the blood soaked screen.

The opening track, Song Of Joy, stabs straight at the heart with a melancholy tale of mystery, and is quickly followed by the strutting Stagger Lee, a traditional ballad retooled to suit the brutality of the hood. Henry Lee features guest vocals from P.J. Harvey, taking the role of the woman scorned, vengeful and, of course, murderous; Kylie Minogue, on the other hand, is the unfortunate victim who gets her head bashed in by a rock simply be cause "all beauty must die".

The album comes to its violent climax with the 14 and a half minute O'Malley's Bar, wherein our humble narrator systematically slaughters the patrons of said drinking emporium over the course of 30 long, visceral verses. The coda of Bob Dylan's Death Is Not The End settles like gun smoke over the whole bloody mess, casting a gloomy calm over the closing credits. Only thing left to shoot now is the movie version - how bout ya, Quentin?


Capitol, 7243 8 32942 2 0 (57 mins) Dial-a-track code: 1311

OK, what's going on here? Well known actor and icon of a generation Johnny Depp has teamed up with Gibby Haynes of Texan weirdos The Butthole Surfers to form a one letter band and record, a bunch of half baked tunes with titles like I Save Cigatette Butts, Zing Splash, and Scrapings From Ring. Is P a real band or just a bunch of Hollywood brats pissing about in the studio? Certainly the recorded evidence points to the latter: you've got some extended jam sessions like the reggaefied John Glenn (Mega Mix), the self explanatory White Man Sings The Blues and the dub style Scrapings. You've got your speed country thrash freestyle rants like Oklahoma and Mr Officer, in which Gibby waxes wacko on the vocals while Depp and blues/rock veteran Bill Carter chop out the stock rock'n'roll riffs. There's a cover of Abba's Dancing Queen which sounds like Priscilla broken down in the desert, and a cute but pointless song about meeting Michael Stipe. I s'pose the ideal time to enjoy P would be about 4 a.m. in the Viper Club.

The Beat: ". . . The Very Best Of The Beat"

Go Feet, 74321231952 (53 mins) Dial a track code: 1421

Ignore the anachronistic use of the techno term in the title, and get ready for a skanking good time, as Britain's best ska/dub/reggae band take us through all their hit records including Mirror In The Bathroom, Hands Off She's Mine, Twist & Crawl and Too Nice To Talk To. In fact, you'll be so busy wigging out in front of the mirror, you won't have time to go to the bathroom. There's also a bonus CD featuring remixed versions of Twist And Crawl and Mirror In The Bathroom among others, but noskalgia heads will no doubt prefer to stick with the original beats.

Babylon Zoo: "The Boy With The X Ray Eyes"

EMI, 7243 8 37204 2 2 (55 mins) Dial a track code: 1531

Now here's a sure fire way to get your song to the top of the charts: speed it up and stick it on a Levi's ad. It's worked for Jas Mann, the 24 year old part Asian, part American who basically is Babylon Zoo. However, not having a speed control on my CD player, I'm forced to listen to this, outmoded melange of distorted guitars, washed out synthesisers and pseudo sociological sci fi lyrics at normal speed, and believe me, it's not a pleasant, experience. Come back, Stiltskin, all is forgiven.