Suede Head Music (Nude)
Brett Anderson wanted to reveal the title of Suede's third album one letter at a time, but by the time he got to the second letter, everyone had already guessed: "heroin". Anderson is horse-free these days, but Head Music is no less addictive than 1996's Coming Up. The opening track, Electricity, crackles with T.Rex-ual energy, while Savoir Faire takes the chugging riffage of She and turns it into a smart, stripped-down glam anthem. Suede are hardly breaking new ground here - Can't Get Enough is particularly cloying in its over-use of rock cliche - but every now and then the band breaks out of the glitter and creates something truly shimmering, such as the shameless vogue-ing of She's In Fashion, or the angelic desolation of He's Gone. There's a retro-electro sheen on Abestos and a Bowie-esque bent on the title track, but Everything Will Flow proves that Suede can wear Kula Shaker's cod-mystic cloak and still look stylish.
With the magic words, "Oo-ee oo-ah-aah ting-tang walla walla bing-bang", Europop's latest bunch of badly-drawn toonsters come bouncing off the page and straight into the pop charts. It's hardly a coincidence that Cartoons come from Denmark, the land that brought us the dubious charms of Aqua, and it's no surprise that songs such as DooDah, Ramalama Daisy and Let's Go Childish make Barbie Girl sound like Strawberry Fields Forever. Cartoons call themselves "techn-obilly", and were formed by three musicians who used to play in a 1950s rock'n'roll band, but decided to abandon the ageing teddy boys and bobby sox grannies and go straight for the teeny-bop-a-lula market instead. The blueprint has worked wonders, turning the single, Witchdoctor, into a Euro-cheese classic, and making the band's trademark silly quiffs as recognisable as Jamiroquai's hat. The scary thing is that Cartoons are a real band, and not just the grotesque product of somebody's fevered imagination.
The Prayer Boat: Polichinelle (Invisible Records)When this Blessington band released their debut album, Oceanic Feeling, many moons ago, they were drowning in a Waterboys wish-fulfilment fantasy. One lost record deal later, Emmett Tinley, his brother Patrick and the crew of The Prayer Boat set sail for wider seas, and have emerged with a fresh outlook and an ethereal, evocative sound. There's still a hint of identity crisis in Tinley's voice: he can't seem to decide whether he wants to be Jeff Buckley or Thom Yorke. There's no arguing with his obvious talent, however, and he guides his Godgiven instrument expertly through such atmospheric tracks as Saved, Dead Flowers and Soon The Stars Will Steer Me. Add in sprinkling piano lines and dew-laden acoustic guitar and you've got a musical picnic for sensitive indie-kids. Kevin Courtney