CD reviews

Supergrass set to please the fans, a grab-bag of Kiwi psychedelia, and a busy little album from Los Campesinos! 

> Supergrass. Diamond Hoo Haa Man. EMI Music. 4 stars (out of 5).

Rising above a glut of mediocre Britpop bands in the early '90s, Supergrass released two standout albums, I Should Coco and In it for the Money, and hinted at talent that far belied their youth - lead singer and prime songwriter Gaz Coombes had not yet turned 20.

But after 14 years and five albums, should we really care about another Supergrass album?

After the thrill of getting Caught by the Fuzz and the driving rock beast that is Richard III, things quickly descended into a rather dull distillation of their previous success on the self-titled third album.

However, Supergrass stretched out their quirky pop formula to encompass psychedelia on Life on Other Planets and sublime moody introspection on the difficult 2005 effort Road to Rouen.

It was always going to be interesting to see what Gaz, Mickey, Danny and Rob cooked up next.

Thankfully, from the catchy fuzzed-out opening lick of Diamond Hoo Haa Man through to the infectious swagger of Rebel in you and the faux funk of Rough Knuckles it's a sound that is likely to delight most Supergrass fans and probably take a few White Stripes disciples along for the ride.

Diamond Hoo Haa Man is pretty much a back-to-basics rock album full of groove-driven guitar classics. Perhaps this has something to do with bass player Mickey Quinn's recovery from a broken back during pre-production.

Not ones to stay idle, Gaz and Danny paraded their wares about small UK venues as a spoof duo. To say Diamond Hoo Haa Man is stripped back would also ignore the tasty embellishments of the older brother on keys.

Rob Coombes' subtle Hammond tinkering is the perfect foil to Gaz's guitar bombast. An infectious mix of light and dark topped off with Gaz's melodic lines, it's little wonder that Supergrass have paved the way for a new generation of imitators.

Diamond Hoo Haa Man may not fulfil the initial promise, but it is an excellent addition to the collection all the same.

- Mark Orton


> Various artists. A Day In My Mind's Mind. EMI Music. 3 1/2 stars (out of 5).

This grab-bag of Kiwi psychedelia is the second in a series intended to document the paisley-painted party that was 1967-72.

From ground-breaking art-rock to awkward imitations of American and British acts of the day, the collection is a surprising reminder of just how many joined in on the fun.

The big names are all there - Fourmyula, Larry's Rebels, Human Instinct, La De Da's - but who will remember Spectres, Tomorrow's Love, Salvation or The Top Shelf?

However short-lived or low-profile their careers, many at least make stronger bids for street cred than Ray Columbus, whose Polka Dot Resistance shows him up as a square in chic clothing.

Without access to much in the way of pharmaceutical assistance, many of the bands rely on studio tricks to suggest at other-worldly inspiration - most notably, a blanket of phasing over the entire mix.

But sprinkled among the 27 tracks are examples of a growing production skill base, where experimentation and adventure were encouraged.

Pick of an eclectic bunch are the likes of Hi-Revving Tongue's Elevator, Timberjack Donaghue's Dali Mohammed, The Avengers' Everyone's Gonna Wonder and, of course, the Fourmyula's Nature.

For its sheer unbridled psych-out glory, drum-based instrumental Bellyboard Beat, by The Music Convention, takes the cake.

A 16-page illustrated booklet with annotations by Graham Reid is a handy guide to a fun-filled trip through a colourful era in Kiwi rock.

- Jeff Harford


> Los Campesinos! Hold On Now, Youngster... Shock/Wichita Records. 3 1 /2 stars (out of 5).

For indie aesthetes wanting to shut out the stresses of the outside world, retreating to childhood nostalgia is tempting.

So, here Welsh eight-piece Los Campesinos! come on like a sugar-addled child desiring yet more fizzy drink.

Whether one buys into the Los Campesinos! world will be determined within the opening seconds of debut LP, Hold on Now, Youngster... - a record that doesn't so much straddle the line between infectious and infuriating as eradicate it.

In short, if opener Death to Los Campesinos!, with its whirlwind of shambolic harmonies, crunching chords and bitchy asides, doesn't hook you, you won't be getting back on this wagon.

A formula soon becomes apparent. Somewhere during every song, lead singer Gareth Campesinos interjects with an abrasive, high-pitched whine, at odds with partner Aleksandra's sugary-sweet tones.

It's designed to jolt the listener, but sometimes it spoils things: Drop It Doe Eyes has enough of a tune not to need all the surrounding chaos.

More problematically, there's a whiff of snobbery throughout. It culminates in And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes In Unison, whose tirade against music industry's sexism is petulant and maybe hypocritical.

Simply, it's best at its giddiest. You! Me! Dancing! displays a keen awareness of dynamics in the way the harmonies coalesce rather than clash, while 2007 is a rambunctious conclusion, as violins battle guitars and organs.

But do they try too much? Hold On Now, Youngster... is too busy to contemplate the answer. After all, contemplating is for adults. And when did they have any fun?

- Matthew Littlewood

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