ROCK

 

Suede: "Coming Up"

Nude, 485129 2 (43 mins)

Dial-a-track code: 1861

The sleazy world of Suede has returned, and not a moment too soon. It was all getting a little too cosy down the pub with the Britpop brigade, but now here's Brett Anderson to remind us once again that life is not all just cigarettes and alcohol - it's pimps, pushers and prostitutes too. Coming Up, is Suede's first album without guitarist Bernard Butler, and they've wisely decided not to try and replicate the epic sweep of Dog Man Star, 1994's answer to Ziggy Stardust. Instead, Suede have gone back to the crushed romanticism of their debut album, mixing crystalline glam rock riffs with fluid piano ballads to create a tight, uncluttered pop sound. New guitarist Richard Oakes comes up with some glittering riffs, and keyboardist Neil Codling, the latest addition to Suede, adds some light and shade to the sound. Opener Trash sets the amoral tone, while Filmstar, Lazy and Starcrazy introduce a cast of damaged characters from Anderson's lyrical imagination. By The Sea and Picnic By The Motorway are petrol soaked romantic interludes, while Beautiful Ones (the next single) is a roll call of debauched detritus: "cracked up, stacked up, 22, psycho for sex and glue". Sometimes the songs seem a little too simple and throwaway, but Anderson tosses them aside with such aplomb, you can't wait to pick up after him.

Pearl Jam: "No Code"

Epic 484448 2 (50 mins)

Dial-a-track code: 1971

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Seattle, here come Eddie Vedder and the boys with another clueless collection of grunge folk drivel. This is Pearl Jam's fourth album, and for some inexplicable reason it is being hailed as a return to form. It's not. No Code is the sound of a superannuated band struggling for ideas and trying to replicate the depth and force of times past. The band play like they really miss jamming with Neil Young, and the monumental self absorption of Vedder's lyrics beggars belief. "Transcendental consequence/ is to transcend/where we are/who are we/who we are" intones Eddie in the navel fluff picking hippy dirge Who You Are, while Mankind features such authentic Eddie wisdom as, "It's all just inadvertent simulation/a pattern in all mankind/What's got the whole world fakin' it". All this mumbling introspection would be okay if it was backed by something solid and rocking, but the music sounds as addled as the words, and nothing here even resembles a fully formed song.

The Boo Radleys: "C'Mon Kids"

Creation CRECD194 (53 mins)

Dial a track code: 2081

Wake up Britpop - it's time to take a trip, and The Boo Radleys are going to lead you down some very unusual and hallucinogenic paths. The Boos have abandoned the poptastic joys of their last album and returned to the opaque inventiveness which sets them apart from the Noelrockers and Weller clones. C'Mon Kids is a plea to expand your mind and float down a very strange stream, but the songs are as direct and accessible as anything on Wake Up, except that this time they won't lose their flavour like old bubblegum, The positively charged toughness of Get On The Bus and What's In The Box conjure up The Who at their late Sixties peak, while Meltin's Worm and Bullfrog Green have obviously evolved from some primordial psychedelic swamp. New Brighton Promenade is a hymn like stroll through a rose tinted past, while Ride The Tiger is a biting resolution to never play it safe. So c'mon kids, follow The Boo Radleys into the backwoods, and leave the well trodden paths to the dull and unimaginative.

Placebo: "Placebo"

Hut/Elevator Music CDFLOOR2 (60 mins)

Dial-a-track code: 2191

The three piece band whose singer looks like a girl have come up with a raw, fiercely individual debut, a collection of direct, punchy tunes which don't try too hard to pummel you into submission. Songs like Come Home, 36 Degrees and Hang On To Your I.Q. come at you fast and breathlessly, bringing a bit of urgency and tautness into the mix. The music is grungy. Britpoppy, punky and even a bit Goth, but the whole thing is whipped together so freshly and furiously, you're not given much of a chance to separate its components. An invigorating splash of sound.