Damien Dempsey: They Don't Teach This Shit In School (Zinc)
Forget the Celtic Tiger, Boybands, Mobile Phones, Theme Pubs and 00 Registered cars, says the press release for Damien Dempsey's debut; when you hear him rap in his granite-hard Dublin brogue, you're thrown right into the tough, rundown slums of Dublin, where even the Celtic Tiger is afraid to wander. Dempsey is best known for the Northside reggae shuffle of Dublin Town - and his earthy approach to music makes him sound a bit like Dustin with a social conscience. However, once you get past his thick, hard-chaw Dub delivery, you begin to notice some sharp lyrics and pointed observations in songs such as Colony, Seanachai, I've No Alibi and Bad Time Garda.
- Kevin Courtney
Andreas Johnson: Liebling (WEA)
Ladies and gentlemen, it's Bjono! Sweden's answer to U2 is making waves with his debut single, Glorious, the first big stadium anthem of the new millennium. Stockholm-born Johnson has travelled to Berlin and New York, so he has shed a lot of the naff elements of Euro-metal; tracks such as People, Do You Believe In Heaven, Breathing and Spaceless are competent, highvoltage electro-rock tracks, low on the Euro-embarrassment scale, but registering uncomfortably high on the Bonometer. Chances are that Johnson's Euro-Zooropa will do big business, so get ready to sing along to that bloody catchy Glorious.
- Kevin Courtney
Filippa Giordano: Filippa Giordano (Erato)
Opera fans may be sick and tired of the endless recycling that passes for "new" these days - but whether they're quite ready for "Puccini performed in a contemporary manner" remains to be seen. Filippa Giordano looks like Maria Callas and sounds like Whitney Houston (pity it isn't the other way round, but there you are), and when she applies her honeyed tonsils to soulful arrangements of soprano standards, the results are easy on the ear, if not always terribly interesting. It doesn't always work - Vissi D'Arte is disastrously overdone, and there's a bit too much floaty, frothy Cast Diva- type stuff - but if it were all like the cheeky Habanera from Carmen, it would be a joy. Way to go, opera?
- Arminta Wallace