Latest CD releases reviewed.

The Back Room Kitchenware ****

2005 is the 25th anniversary of Ian Curtis's death, so it probably doesn't hurt any band to be compared to Joy Division. Editors (conspicuously missing a "The") plough the same furrow of guitar-flecked morbidity, but with pop firmly at their heart. As a result, they're more Echo and the Bunnymen, firmly perched at the murkier end of the pop spectrum beside Interpol. Like numerous bands currently plundering '80s music like a supermarket trolley dash, Editors do it with far more imagination while hawking their own sound. Tracks such as All Sparks, Camera and single Munich border on epic guitar pop Zen, but these are dark tales, delivered via Tom Smith's edgy baritone. If you liked singles Blood and Bullets, The Back Room won't disappoint; and watch out for closer Distance - it's tragically brilliant. Sinéad Gleeson

Future Soundtrack for America Barsuk Records ****

This US charity compilation originated as a political fundraiser to fight against particular policies of President George W Bush and raise funds for various nonprofit organisations; partly conceived by John Flansburgh (of They Might Be Giants), the CD features rare and exclusive tracks from the likes of David Byrne (Ain't Got So Far to Go), Ben Kweller (Jerry Falwell Destroyed Earth), Bright Eyes (Going for the Gold), The Flaming Lips (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots), Laura Cantrell (Sam Stone), Tom Waits (Day After Tomorrow) and Elliott Smith (A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free). All told, it's as on-point a compilation as you could hope for (we haven't even mentioned Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nada Surf, Fountains of Wayne, Sleater-Kinney), and as good an alt.pop soundtrack to the summer as you could wish for. Tony Clayton-Lea

Set Yourself on Fire Arts & Crafts/City Slang ****

Glorious, shimmering torch songs for indie geeks is the lot of Stars, a Montreal act who sound as if they know their way around the bonfire of the vanities usually set off by broken-hearted romantics. Boy-girl vocals from Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan articulate everyday tales of desperation, chance encounters and melodramatic kitchen-sink rows (see The Big Fight for more on this). But it's the synths, guitars, French horn and assorted strings that provide the colourful splashes which lift and distinguish the moods. Such instrumentation provides the oxygen for the mesmerising ascent on the wonderful Ageless Beauty, as well as underpinning the subtle, graceful lines throughout Reunion. As if all that wasn't enough, the band's lightness of touch, eloquent intrigue and musical smarts provide even more reasons to reach for the Stars. Jim Carroll

A Million in Prizes - The Anthology Virgin ***

The ugliest man in rock music, 58- year-old James Jewel Osterburg is one of those rare forces of nature - a narcissistic rock star committed to the art of performance as catharsis. This two-CD set aims to act as a career retrospective, and its compilers almost achieve that; there's pretty much everything here that anyone would need as an Iggy Pop primer, from The Stooges' malevolent proto-punk of 1969, No Fun and I Wanna Be Your Dog, Iggy and the Stooges' meta-rock of Search and Destroy and Raw Power, to varying solo material such as Nightclubbing, Lust for Life, The Passenger (all just plain brilliant), and - his UK commercial highpoint, and a cover, no less - Real Wild Child (Wild One). Hardline fans might be disappointed by the skimming nature of the exercise, but for everyone else this is an object lesson in how to corral a bucking, maverick, uncompromising talent in less than 40 songs. Tony Clayton-Lea

Pipe Dream Cynical Records ***

Yes, that's a man smoking a naked woman on the CD cover. But little else about this peculiarly charming debut from Dublin band The Burning Effigies demands such a high irony threshold. Its array of lounge room buoyancy, pouting bass lines, pinched guitar licks and lyrical quirks makes for an infectiously soulful concoction. Joined at the groove with the milky funk of Steely Dan, the quartet can be similarly ambient and aloof - the consequence of much studio expertise and self-amusement but little editing. So, occasionally, they become hypnotised by their own languid beats or succumb to lyrical novelty on a dispensable "modem love song" (Plug and Play), but the welcome party vibes of Late Nights and Lie Ons, Get Down with Me and a squat Mid Afternoon offer enough absorbing rhythms, airy arrangements and moments of good humour to ignite your interest. Peter Crawley

Luke Haines Is Dead Hut ****

Like Monty Python's parrot, the acerbic frontman with The Auteurs and Baader Meinhof isn't really dead, he's just resting after a long squawk. Having spent the past decade or so shoving 50,000 volts up the arses of the pretentious, the preening and the puffed up, Haines has been somewhat quiet of late, so you would be forgiven for wondering if Britpop's bete noir had been hit by a double decker bus. This collection of A-sides, B-sides, rarities, oddities, curios and curate's eggs is a timely reminder of Haines's misanthropic genius, its three CDs stuffed with bile, spleen, vitriol and - most importantly - brilliant pop songs. These include Showgirl, How Could I be Wrong, Lenny Valentino, Chinese Bakery and New French Girlfriend, along with such buried treasures as Satan Wants Me, Car Crash, Kids Issue, X Boogie Man (played on a Vox Univibe once owned by Joe Meek, rare instrument freaks), and a song to Kylie entitled I'm a Rich Man's Toy. So, very much alive and still kicking the cage door. Kevin Courtney


Jagged Little Pill Acoustic Maverick **

Can it already be 10 years since a kooky Canadian chick changed the face of girlpop with her 30 million-selling debut, creating a new genre sometimes unkindly referred to as PMT pop? Alas for Alanis, success brought extra baggage, and she sank ever deeper into her flaky, damaged pop persona. She's already done unplugged versions of her songs as part of an MTV special, so why she would want to lovingly recreate her debut album in an acoustic style with the help of its original producer Glen Ballard is not immediately clear. Perhaps she's trying to reconnect with that angry young babe of yore and find a way out of her creative and emotional rut. But though the sound is clear as shattered crystal and Alanis's voice rings confidently over the layers of acoustic guitars and laid-back percussion, this tamed-down version allows her to further indulge her innate dippiness when she really should be rediscovering her rockier side. Kevin Courtney