The High Llamas: "Hawaii"

The High Llamas: "Hawaii"

Alpaca Park 48903 2 (77 mins)

Dial-a-track code: 1531

Sean O'Hagan's pet obsession with the sounds of The Beach Boys is given full vent on this fully realised follow up to 1994's Gideon Gaye, as the former Microdisney man attempts to emulate the genius of Brian Wilson; with some studio magic of his own.


Hawaii is a 29 track tribute to an era when popular music really was popular, and easy listening wasn't merely kitschy; the album's dense layers of "Moog, banjo, strings and brass open on to wide, sunny vistas of sound and style, and O'Hagan's complex melodies and arrangements conjure up a picture postcard of a musical paradise, which has since been spoilt by vulgar rockism. Everyone from The Boo Radleys to Rollerskate Skinny has tried to create their own Smile, but the High Llamas have come closest to recapturing the flavour and fantasy of, Wilson's lost masterpiece.

Ocean Colour Scene: "Moseley Shoals"

MCA MCD60008 (55 mins)

Dial-a-track code: 1641

The past, is a different country for this Birmingham foursome, lying somewhere between the classic pop/ rock, of Beatles/Stones and the psychedelic progressive sounds of Spooky Tooth and The Pretty Things. This album puts up a firm retro front defending its territory with relentless r n b guitar riffs and booby trap Beatles refrains. But once you get past the more overt reference points, you'll find a richness of ideas and a rawness of energy in songs like The Circle, Policemen & Pirates and the current Top Ten hit, You've Got It Bad, Lining Your Pockets is stuffed with superbly sparse piano and guitar, barely concealing, an impossibly, catchy chorus, while Fleeting Mind is a wonderful. Weller style ballad. 40 Past Midnight however, can't seem to get past the legacy of The Stones, but in general, OCS prove themselves well capable of transcending their influences.

The Afghan Whigs: "Black Love"

Elektra 7559-61896-2 (52 mins) Dial-a-track code: 1751

Greg Dulli is one tortured soul, but, unlike the self pitying plaid shirt slacker brigade, his is a noble suffering, an elegant, snappily dressed angst. Black Love is the Cincinnati based band's follow up to 1993's Gentlemen, and ifs dark themes of twisted love, violent redemption and healing self hatred are laid over some of the Whigs most insistent Motown influenced instrumental attack. The film flair feel is established in Crime Scene Part One, and songs like My Enemy, Blame Etc. and Going To Town are fiery, fierce setpieces which conjure up equal parts David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino. The torn voice of G Dulli dominates all, and he tugs at your soul with every brash, baleful cry of pain.

Ride "Tarantula"

Sire 7559-61893-2 (50 mins)

Dial-a-track code: 1861

Ride were the band which dragged shoegazing kicking and screaming into the Nineties, and they gave us at least one great album in 1991's Nowhere. In the past few years, however, relations between the two principle songwriters, Mark Gardener and Andy Bell, have soured, and by the time this album hit the shops, the band had already announced its break up. Tarantula is Bell's album all the way, and his riffed out Sixties influence has gained supremacy over Gardener's more ethereal, effects laden style. The guitars still crash together like twin tidal waves, but they no longer seem to blend into towers of beauty, and songs like Black Nite Crash, Dead Man and The Dawn Patrol seem to be trying desperately to catch up with the changing landscape of rock.

Lush: "Lovelife"

4AD CAD6004 CD (46 mins)

Dial-a-track code. 1971

In which the queens of shoegazing grow up and hit the town, ready to take on Sleeper, Echobelly and Elastica in the Britgirl, stakes. Lush have shed the veils of distorted guitar and mousy vocals to come up with a divine pop product, and songs like Ladykillers, Heavenly Nobodies, Single Girl and Ciao! the latter a duet with the god like Jarvis Cocker show that Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson are, unlike the boys from Ride, mature and savvy enough to work together to get what they want.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist