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Ministry
From Beer To Eternity (AFM Records)

Ministry Ministry was always Al Jourgensen’s (mostly) serious project – other projects, like Revolting Cocks and 1000 Homo DJs, give you a clue about the humour involved – and whilst it occasionally feels like being battered around the head with a wardrobe full of scrap metal Ministry was always an avowedly political beast welding clonking great riffs, hi-speed programmed drums and samples to Jougensen’s demented bellow and their thirteenth, possibly final outing is more of the same. Sadly soon after completing the sessions guitarists Mike Scaccia died onstage playing with his other band Rigor Mortis. This stands as a worthy testimony.
The Oracle

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Mighty Diamonds
Planet Earth/Planet Mars Dub (Hot Milk)

Mighty Diamonds Having secured the excellent (and rare) Torch Of Freedom re-release by Keith Hudson as their label debut Hot Milk have kept the quality level stratospheric by releasing this as their second and what a cracking listen it is, helped immeasurably by sequencing each dub cut immediately after the vocal version – the dub cuts being yet another rare treasure and neither album has ever appeared on CD since its original release on Virgin/Front Line in 1978. Formed in 1969 and still together today there’s a very strong argument for The Mighty Diamonds being the finest roots vocal trio ever and this is right up there with their finest work.
Drew Bass

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Motorpsycho
Blissard:Box set, Deluxe Edition (Rune Grammofon )

Motorpsycho The next instalment in an ongoing series of re-issues, this 4CD boxset follows similar luxury treatment meted out to previous release Timothy’s Monster (the bands high water mark up to that point). Previously known as a ‘jam’ band working up ideas in the studio Blissard saw the Trondheim based psych-rockers begin sessions with songs already in the bag leading to perhaps their most cohesive album and their first Norwegian Grammy. Now expanded to 48 tracks (22 of which are previously unreleased) the box includes a poster and a 32-page booklet with extensive liner notes and detailed recording information about all the tracks.
Ruby Palmer

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Mission Of Burma
Learn How : The Essential Mission Of Burma (Fire Records) )

Mission Of Burma The Mission of Burma - originally formed in Boston in 1979 are one of those bands whose influence far outweighs their commercial success having called it a day in 1983 after only releasing one full studio album (Vs) which has since been recognised as something of a classic. Reforming almost twenty years later the band defied all expectations by releasing (thus far) a further four increasingly fine albums so, if you have missed the boat, this Fire Records collection, which cherry picks tracks from all points in the bands career to date, is an excellent primer which could well send you on a mission of discovery back through the bands career.
Ruby Palmer

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Bob Mould
Silver Age (Edsel)

Bob Mould If, like many here at TM-Towers, you are a fan of both the mighty Hüsker Dü and the equally mighty (and rather more muscular) Sugar then you will doubtless, given Bob Moulds hit and miss solo outings, have been awaiting his latest release with mixed emotions. Well you can relax as not only is this a genuinely fantastic album it’s easily the finest thing Mould has put his name to since Copper Blue and it's loaded to the gunnels with cracking tunes and walloping great dollops of cojones. Oh how we smiled when Silver Age gradually revealed track after track of big-noised beauty, album of the year contender, hands down. Brilliant.
Ray Harper

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Gary Moore
Legacy (Music Club Deluxe)

Gary MooreWhen Gary Moore died of a heart attack in the early hours of 6 February 2011 at the Kempinski Hotel in Estepona, Spain (having drunk way, way too much), the UK rock scene lost one of its finest, and lamentably underrated, performers. Whether as part of Thin Lizzy, Colosseum II, Skid Row (the Irish outfit, not the yanks) or his blues based solo career Moore carved out a career as one of our most assured string-strokers moving from beautiful lyricism to mind boggling pyrotechnics with ease but, as is not always the case with guitarists, also had an ear for a proper tune as this genuinely fine collection outlines admirably well.
The Oracle

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Midwich Assembly
Bewilderland (Dead Fly Recordings).

Midwich Assembly This is Midwich Assembly’s debut album and their influences are said to include Mercury Rev, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode and The Blue Nile. However, songs such as 'Astronomer Royal', harks back to Eno/Fripp/Gabriel, whilst 'And Then The Summer' is almost Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame) in its execution, 'Another Glorious Day', is not unlike an acoustic instrumental in the vein of Gordon Giltrap and 'Everything Has To Happen', an electronic experiment that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the 80s, its chorus very much like Tears For Fears. So you now have a flavour – not easy to pigeonhole and pretty unique.
David Blue

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Matching Mole
Matching Mole (Esoteric)

Matching Mole Newly ousted from Soft Machine Robert Wyatt headed straight back into the fray forming Matching Mole and creating this intriguing, eponymously titled, debut. Wyatt’s sense of humour is in full effect (the lyrics to 'Signed Curtain' are classic Wyatt), and the band’s tight, jazz-fusion chops are right on the money. This newly re-mastered and expanded edition is particularly enticing as it includes unreleased studio tracks, a couple of Radio One sessions and a Sid Smith essay. Follow up Little Red Record (also re-mastered and expanded) would be a little more hit and miss but the extras certainly ensure that Wyatt fans will want both.
Ray Harper

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Meatloaf
Hell In A Handbasket (Sony)

Meatloaf Let’s be honest, Meaty’s never really got anywhere near the world bestriding colossus that was Bat Out Of Hell and he probably never will, once you’ve clung onto the bucking bronco of world-wide smash hit the only thing left is to fall off, which in Mr Loaf’s case resulted in something of a crater. So here we are at his tenth album since BOOH! And it’s not at all bad, not perhaps as ‘rocky’ as previous outing Hang Cool Teddy Bear, far more varied musically and, despite not actually being written by him, more personal lyrically. Not at all sure that rap belongs anywhere near a Meatloaf album though (even when assisted by the mighty Chuck D).
Ray Harper

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Magazine
No Thyself (Wire-sound)

MagazineOh the blessed relief, like meeting up with an old lover and desperately hoping a fat old man isn’t going to sashay into the room, the reconvened Magazine have a good deal more in common with the brilliant Magazine of The Correct Use of Soap than the latter, less essential, Magic, Murder and the Weather outfit. No John McGeoch (who died in 2004) of course – although the angular slashing Noko helps fill the gap – but Devoto, Formula, Doyle and Adamson are all present and correct and, proving it’s not only Bad Seeds that can whip up an post-punk stew of unholy racket and grand guignol gothery, firing on all cylinders. Hurrah!
Ruby Palmer

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Roots Manuva
4everevolution (Big Dada)

Roots ManuvaStill not something we excel at in the UK (or feature much on TM-Online) but the godfather of British rap Rodney Smith has been beavering away at what can honestly be described as genuine Brit-hop (i.e. he has never tried to sound American) for approaching twenty years now and this, his fifth album – not including remix and collaborative efforts – is the best thing he has ever done, with nary a nod towards any scene or trend Smith ploughs his own, mind bogglingly, diverse furrow dipping into dub, reggae, funk, electronic adventurism and much, much more. Nineteen tracks and not one ounce of flab, give this man a knighthood now.
Drew Bass

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Man
The Live Adventures Of Man (Floating World)

Man Certainly a band in the running for the most different line-ups Man, who are still around today, began life in the late 60’s, early 70’s and were an agreeably scrappy amalgam of West Coast psychedelia, prog, blues and what we would now call alt-country all of which styles can be found on this, mainly early seventies themed, collection of bootleg recordings. Be warned the sound quality is pretty average (aside from the last two discs recorded in 1984) and will really only appeal to Man fanatics, especially given the appearance of short lived Man member John Cippolina (of Quicksilver Messenger Service fame) on disc five.
Ray Harper

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Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Mirror Traffic (Domino)

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks There are many, and varied reasons to love Stephen Malkmus, Pavement (obviously), his work with the Silver Jews (in particular American Water) and of course his dodgem car solo career with the Jicks (beginning with, but certainly not limited to ‘JoJo's Jacket’s fantastic ode to Yul Brenner). That said his après Pavement career, whilst always fascinating, has often seemed aimed squarely at ‘not being in Pavement’ a demon the reunion shows of 2010 may well have banished as this album sounds very much like what the follow up to Terror Twilight may have sounded like had the band not imploded in 1999.
Ruby Palmer

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Madness
A Guided Tour Of Madness: 3CD+DVD (Salvo)

MadnessNot the first Madness collection, but then again it’s not a greatest hits package (several, lesser known singles are absent) but an attempt to sum up the nutty boys career to date over three CD’s and a live DVD – the original Madstock reunion show in Finsbury Park which, incidentally, caused an earthquake scare in nearby flats fact fans. Featuring (deep breath) 70 classic singles and album tracks plus the track ’Le Grand Pantalon’ a cracking reworking of ’Baggy Trousers’, created for a Kronenbourg ad, a 72-page colour booklet complete with new interviews, unseen photos, the first issue of the Nutty Comic and a Madness Map Of Camden… All in all a very well realised summation of the bands career to date.
Ruby Palmer

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Dave Matthews Band
Lucca, Italy (Eagle Records)

Dave Matthews BandNot a name widely known in the UK, outside the hugely enthusiastic fan-base – which is bloody extensive, helping the band to record sales of 30 plus million worldwide – the Dave Matthews Band, sometimes shortened to DMB, are a U.S. rock band formed in 1991 and, whilst they have made some very fine albums, are definitely a ‘live proposition’ regularly playing three hour plus sets, stretching and reinventing album tracks and changing nightly set lists on an almost pathological basis. If you don’t know the band this 3 disc live set is definitely the best way to get acquainted, if you do you probably have it already.
Ray Harper

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Mostly Autumn.
That Night In Leamington (Nova)

Mostly Autumn. Some fans of Mostly Autumn’s earlier, more proggy, output have been in two minds about their later material as the mixed responses to 2010’s Go Well Diamond Heart, their ninth studio album with new front woman Olivia Sparnenn, attested. But fear not all you fans of the Heather Findlay era line-up, as this double live set recorded at Heather’s final show in 2010, features pretty much everything you would want to hear dating from those early days back in the late ‘90s right up to Heathers final studio album Glass Shadows, and also acts as a cracking primer for those interested in an introduction to the band’s folky floydian-isms.
Ray Harper

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Mamuthones
Mamuthones (Boring Machines)

MamuthonesFor those that are interested in such things Mamuthones is Alessio Gastaldello (who could previously be found whacking stuff in Italian psych poppers Jennifer Gentle) - or at least it was until the addition (on this release at least) of Marco Fasolo and sexagenarian drummer Maurizio Boldrin. Gastaldello was previously best known for his penchant for the soundtracks to terrifically unpleasant Italian ‘Giallo’ style films and Fripp and Eno-esque drone cycles, however the addition of Boldrin and Fasolo has injected a chest constricting ‘running the hell away from something scary’ aspect to proceedings which is oddly rather invigorating.
Ruby Palmer

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Robert Miles
Thirteen (S:alt Records)

Robert MilesThirteen (or as the cover art would have it TH1RT3EN) is the fifth studio album from so called ‘dream trance’ producer Robert Miles – the man behind the huge trance hit and much sampled, 'Children' – and, once again, he has taken yet another step further away from the straight up piano driven four to the floor days of yore getting even more cinematic and jazzy, this time around incorporating elements of prog (with guitar chops courtesy of Robert Fripp), before injecting some properly rocking moments, like ‘Black Rubber’ and ‘Antimony’, into the overall ambience and creating a refreshingly open minded but still very cohesive mix.
Drew Bass

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Bob Marley
Small Axe (Spectrum/Universal)

Bob MarleyNot an album proper in Marley’s back catalogue, although most of the tracks would surface, re-recorded for Island on various albums like Burnin’ and Rasta Revolution, but just how they went from a being a pretty good ska act to a world dominating reggae act can be traced to these recordings done with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Including versions of the title track, 'Kaya', 'Duppy Conqueror', 'African Herbsman' and many more - plus numerous versions (both instrumental and featuring toasters like Big Youth and U-Roy) – this is an excellent starting point for those keen to hear where the legend was born.
Drew Bass

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John Martyn
Live At Leeds (Commercial Marketing)

John MartynFact fans may be interested to learn that most of this was not actually recorded in Leeds at all, but remains a fine example of the dichotomy that was John Martyn, one minute a blustering ill-mannered lout, the next a drop dead gorgeous balladeer, both of which feature here, the often interminable between song banter at direct odds with the truly stupendous performances. Originally released on a shoe string budget by Martyn after his label Island showed no interest in marketing it - the limited edition of 10,000 sold by mail order – this newly expanded release now includes rehearsal footage and three tracks featuring Paul Kossoff on lead guitar.
Ray Harper

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Macc & dgoHn
Some Shit Saaink (Rephlex)

Macc & dgoHn Better known to their mums as audio engineer producer and live drummer Robert ‘Macc’ Macciochi and producer John ‘dgoHn’ Cunnane, Some Shit Saaink (nope we have no idea what it means either), will doubtless find itself wedged into the drum n bass section in your local dance music emporium, and whilst that is certainly the driving force here SSS is also positively soaked in dubsteppy atmosphere and exhibits jazz chops aplenty – a cross between Squarepusher and Spring Heel Jack is a fair kicking off point – in fact this clatters along in a very fine old style indeed. Not hard to see why Richard D James likes ‘em.
Drew Bass

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Mirror System
69 Steps Vol.4: Reflector (A Wave)

Mirror SystemThere is a school of thought which has it that anything released by Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy is worth owning, and in truth it’s hard to find much in their back catalogue which disproves this theory. For the uninitiated Mirror System is Steve and Miquette’s down-tempo project and this is a mix album featuring a seamless stitching together of several of the more underground acts in the ambient glitch market, including some of their own material and remixes, and is just the thing for chilling outside on a balmy summer evening with a stimulant of your own choice (being quite old we’d plump for a cold glass of Chardonnay).
Drew Bass

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John McLaughlin
My Goal’s Beyond (Wienerworld)

John McLaughlinOriginally released in 1971My Goal’s Beyond preceded McLaughlin’s interest in Indian music and acoustic guitar by some years – lest we forget around this time he could be found creating great whirling dervishes of sound with Miles Davis. It features Billy Cobham, Jerry Goodman, Charlie Haden, Airto Moreira and tabla player Badal Roy doing justice to jazz standards like Charles Mingus’s ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ and Chick Corea’s ‘Waltz for Bill Evans’, but it’s the two extended Indian fusion pieces ('Peace One' and 'Peace Two') which are the real gems here. If you only ever own one JM album this really should be it.
Paul Riley

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Meursault
All Creatures Will Make Merry (Song, by Toad Records)

Meursault If you are the sort of person who is scared by the idea of electro-folk (and let’s be honest many a firm folkie and many a dedicated dance nut would hate the idea), then you’d best head off and listen to some normal pop music. OK, that’s got rid of them, now the rest of us can snuggle down with Neil Pennycook and Co. as they whip up a batch of songs which sound not unlike a field recording of sonic adventurer Fennesz playing in the next highland glen to Pennycooks ‘ower the hills and far away vocals or the Proclaimers guesting with Arcade Fire. Immediate it ain’t, but repeat listens slowly reveal a deeply dramatic, warm and eloquent album.
Drew Bass

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Brad Mehldau
Highway Rider (Nonesuch)

Brad Mehldau Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny and Renée Fleming are among the performers to have collaborated to impressive effect with the almost disturbingly gifted Brad Mehldau, but the jazz pianist also has a long series of distinguished solo albums to his credit. But whereas previous releases were often partly reliant on existing material (Nick Drake, Paul Simon and Radiohead are among the acts to have fallen under his eclectic radar), Highway Rider is entirely self-composed – and rather magnificent too. Spread over two discs, this ambitious set is melodic but spiky, tough but tender: contemporary jazz at its most compelling.
David Davies

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Midlake
The Courage of Others (Bella Union)

MidlakeA roll-call that includes Fleet Foxes, Laura Veirs, Peter Broderick, Explosions in the Sky and Midlake means that Simon Raymonde’s Bella Union is a real contender for the title of world’s greatest indie label. Advance coverage for this third album suggested that the band had exchanged the sun-blessed LA rock influence of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours for the English pastoralism of Fairport Convention and Unhalfbricking. The latter’s widescreen folk-rock is certainly an accurate reference point, but so too are the intricate guitars and otherworldly feel of the first two post-Gabriel Genesis albums on a consistently engaging collection.
David Davies

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Junior Murvin
Police And Thieves (Island)

Junior MurvinAlthough regularly listed as one of the major reggae classics of all time the original album was in fact a little on the patchy side (although certainly half of the tracks are stone cold classics), something this expanded edition addresses by adding six bonus dub cuts to CD one and a whole second disc of singles, alternate versions and dubs – courtesy of the great Lee Perry who produced the album – including tracks with The Heptones , Dillinger, guitar legend Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith and the frankly indispensible ‘Soldier And Police War’ (a ‘Police And Thieves’ dub) with Jah Lion. If you don’t yet own this now is the time to remedy that.
Drew Bass

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Monsters Of Folk
Monsters of Folk (Rough Trade)

Monsters Of FolkThere can’t be many alternative music fans who aren’t already aware that The Monsters Of Folk are in fact an alt-country supergroup featuring Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, My Morning Jacket's Jim James (or Yim Yames) and the delightfully wayward M. Ward and, despite everyone involved obviously enjoying themselves immensely it’s nice to be able to report that they haven’t just dug a few old throwaways out of their respective demo bins but rather seem to have been motivated by each other to not only bring excellent material to the table but also to improve said material upon arrival. There genuinely isn’t a stinker on this.
Ruby Palmer

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Muse
The Resistance (Helium 3)

MuseJudging by some recently published reviews of the latest Muse magnum opus – and let’s be honest Muse don’t do understated – the lads have either reached too far, or not far enough, either the trilogy of orchestral pieces that wind the album up are overblown or Matt Bellamy’s operatic wailing and staccato guitar attack haven’t evolved enough since Black Holes... and the band are morphing into Queen, to which we offer a resounding bollocks. Yes it does occasionally veer into the mad over the top ambition of Queen at their most bombastic, but that is precisely what is missing in music right now, more bloody power to ‘em we say.
Ruby Palmer

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Gary Moore
Essential Montreux (Eagle Records)

Gary Moore One of the UK’s finest electric blues guitarists Gary Moore has played with acts as diverse as Thin Lizzy, BB King, Colosseum II and Greg Lake, but his solo material has seldom attracted as much interest which is a great pity as he is not only a gifted guitarist but he also has a very useful set of pipes [I’m assuming that’s vocal rather than pan or bag – Ed], and these five shows (with over six hours of material) recorded at Montreux in ’90, ’95, ’97, ‘99 and 2001 capture all the different facets of his solo career and make for a superb introduction, especially when coupled with the very competitive pricing.
Ray Harper

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The Mars Volta
Octahedron (Mercury Records)

The Mars VoltaSee the thing is if you’re not keen on magnificently overwrought prog lunacy then finding out that the fifth studio album by former At The Drive In buddies Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala (plus a host of pals) is their most accessible to date is akin to being told that drowning in a pond would be preferable to drowning in the sea. If you hated Frances the Mute you will doubtless hate this as well, however you will be wrong on both counts and those of you that love the sheer scale of their vision will be delighted to learn that even a slightly reigned in Mars Volta is still four times madder than just about anyone else out there.
Ray Harper

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The Move
The Very Best Of… (Salvo)

The Move You may recall we were very impressed with the Move Boxset released at the arse end of last year, which may prompt you to say, ‘Hoy! TotalMusic-Online, two best of reviews in such close proximity? What’s going on?’ To which we would reply, much as we loved the 4 x CD boxset only fans are likely to want or need a live concert, alternate takes or Tony Visconti studio chat but everyone should have ‘Blackberry Way’, ‘Flowers In The Rain ’, ‘Brontosaurus’, 'California Man' and ‘Fire Brigade’ (plus loads more cracking pop rockers), in their record collection and with this natty little 25 tracker you can do just that'.
Ray Harper

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Van Morrison
Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl (Listen To the Lion/EMI)

Van MorrisonAs anyone who shelled out for last year’s patchy Keep It Simple will know, the purchase of a new Van Morrison album is not always to be undertaken lightly these days. Fortunately, we’re on safe ground with this powerful live take on the classic 1968 release, Astral Weeks. Taking an admirably liberal approach to the original’s sequence and feel, the Hollywood Bowl version is every bit as compelling as its studio template. Encoring with a thrilling ‘Listen To The Lion/The Lion Speaks’, Van is in terrific voice throughout, his delight at re-connecting with this seminal material clearly audible.
Drew Bass

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The Mannish Boys
Lowdown Feelin’ (Delta Groove/Wienerworld)

The Mannish Boys LA based bluesmen The Mannish Boys have called on a number of blues names, including Junior Watson and Lynwood Slim to contribute to their fourth album, Lowdown Feelin’. This follows on from their highly praised 2007 offering, Big Plans, and sees them handle songs old and new with the same panache. Highlights include the big performance on the Chicago blues of ‘Low Down Feeling’, the vital 60s R&B instrumental, ‘You Don’t Love Me’ and ‘Chocolate Drop’ with Bobby Jones’ gritty vocal and a smooth performance from the band, and with so many guest slots you never really know just what is coming next.
David Blue.

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The Move
The Move Anthology (Salvo)

The Move History hasn’t been kind to the Move, especially given they would later spawn the million selling ELO (disc four even includes an early version of ELO’s ‘Do Ya’), and penned such all time classics as `Fire Brigade', `Flowers in the Rain', ‘Blackberry Way’, ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ and the proto metal ‘Brontosaurus’. This is almost entirely down the bands lack of success in the US rather than any lack of songwrting ability as the long list of cracking tunes found here proves. Move fans will be delighted by loads of unreleased material, everyone else should just re-introduce themselves to one of the UK’s most underrated outfits.
Ray Harper

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Motörhead
Motörizer (SPV)

MotörheadWe’re entering uncharted waters, as a generation of rock stars start galloping into retirement territory and, at least in Lemmy’s case, flatly refuse to take their boot off the accelerator. If you need further evidence of this just head straight for track four ‘Rock Out’ which begins at breakneck speed and then just gets louder and faster and also includes the ‘none-more-metal’ lyric ‘rock out, rock out, rock out, with your cock out, impress your lady friends’. Quite why he’s not dead yet, given his prodigious fags, drink and drug intake, is a mystery, but he does, and remains harder, heavier and more in your face than most people a third of his age.
Ray Harper

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Mudhoney
Superfuzz Bigmuff (Subpop)

MudhoneyIt’s almost always the case that those who pioneer a musical style (whether knowingly or not), are almost never those that go on to make shed-loads of dosh from it, and such is the case with Mudhoney. I’m willing to bet most of you have a Nirvana album in your collection, and equally willing to bet very few have a Mudhoney album, which is sad ‘cos this is ground zero for grunge (before it was called grunge of course), and this shambolic hardcore meets garage meets metal melange is just about day one in the history books and now comes complete with added demos, covers, live sets and radio sessions.
Ruby Palmer

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Eamonn McCormack
Kindred Spirits (True Talent)

Eamonn McCormackOkay, so lyrically things don’t extend much past things being wrong - like ladies doing him wrong or being wrongly accused of some wrongdoing or other - but you no more buy an album by a bluesy power trio for the depth of the wordplay than you pick up a Fifty Cent album for the feminist tendencies on display therein, nope the guitar’s the thing here and make no mistake McCormack has a fiery way with a string and a plectrum, and if this isn’t enough to tempt you how about the last thing Rory Gallagher ever played on – whipping up a typically wicked piece of bottleneck wizardry on ‘Falsely Accused’.
Ray Harper

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Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks
Real Emotional Trash (Domino)

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks The follow-up to 2005's Face The Truth - complete with a fresh line-up, including ex-Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss – offering us some Real Emotional Trash which, as you might expect, exhibits all the lo-fi, psychedelia of previous work, only this time everything comes slathered in proper grimy, almost proggy, rock wig-outs and the odd melodic sunny pop interlude, if you thought Malkmus’ music was schizophrenic before you ain’t heard nuthin’ yet. Critical cries of ‘self-indulgence’ have been heard, but experimentation is what we expect from Malkmus, that’s his job and, once again, there’s beauty to be found herein.
Ruby Palmer

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Bob Mould
District Line (Beggars Banquet)

Bob Mould Bob Mould has made something of a career out of confounding his fans, firstly when steering Hüsker Dü away from their initial hardcore roots down more melodic, albeit still decidedly rockist, roads then, having established follow up outfit Sugar as a downright noisy, albeit melodic, concern he promptly went and discovered techno, before strapping on an acoustic guitar and mellowing out some. So which Bob Mould is this one? Well in the main it’s the noisy begger (with the odd bout of electronic knob twiddling), and a very welcome return to his nifty way with a crunching riff and memorable chorus it is too.
Ray Harper

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The Mars Volta
The Bedlam In Goliath (Island)

The Mars VoltaGiven prog rocks predilection for disappearing up it’s own convoluted corridor fans of The Mars Volta might have been forgiven for thinking their previous outing Amputechture’s lack of coherent direction signalled a band running short on ideas. Fortunately their latest proves that Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have plenty of high-speed polyrhythmic u-turns left up their collective sleeve as The Bedlam In Goliath returns to Frances The Mute territory with perhaps their most bizarre lyrical efforts to date - based around their experiences with an archaic ouija-type talking board - and more musical ideas than most bands career output. Ray Harper

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Morrissey
Greatest Hits (2CD Edition) (Decca/Polydor)

MorrisseyBuoyed up by two robust new songs, Greatest Hits boasts a safe tracklisting that’s predictably heavy on Morrissey’s two post-‘comeback’ albums, You are the Quarry and Ringleader of the Tormentors. Better, then, to ignore the single-CD version in favour of the double set that features eight live tracks from a 2007 show at the Hollywood Bowl. Perhaps surprisingly given his recent dispute with a certain UK music paper, ‘The National Front Disco’ is present, alongside a spirited revival of ‘The Last of the Famous International Playboys’ and a lengthy, atmospheric soujourn through ‘Life Is A Pigsty’ that surpasses the original.
David Davies

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Magnetic Fields
Distortion (Nonesuch)

Magnetic FieldsFans of 69 Love Songs seem to have been split right down the middle on this latest album by Stephen Merritt due in no small part to it’s use of feedback and, yes, Distortion. Drawing comparisons with The Jesus And Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine to these ears it sounds more like Phil Spector producing the Beach Boys only with decent lyrics - Merritt also apparently sufferers from hyperacusis, so this is his way of sharing what he hears with us. In fact the extraneous noise is not at all off-putting, it merely places Merritt’s wordplay in a different setting which, given the current surge of people with acoustic guitars around, is no bad thing.
Ruby Palmer

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Marah
Angels Of Destruction (Munich Records)

MarahGoogle Marah (there’s something you don’t say every day) and you will find the words Springsteen and Bruce used often and in close proximity, but in truth you could just as easily use words like Stones, Rolling, Costello or indeed Elvis all of which should tell you, if you’re not already acquainted with the band, that this is grown up rock music for which neither the band, nor their fans, make any excuse (and neither should they). Opinions seem divided as to whether this is album six or seven but it matters not as it really is a good ‘un, in fact it could well be the best they have created to date, so if you have yet to sample Marah now is a very good time. Ray Harper

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Joni Mitchell
Shine (Hear Music)

Bruce HornsbyHaving described the music industry as a “cesspool” in a Rolling Stone interview around the time of 2002’s remakes collection Travelogue, few expected Mitchell to go back on her stated plan of concentrating on her painting in the future. But five years later, inspired by gathering environmental calamity, she has returned with her first album of new songs for nine years – and her best for many more than that. Climaxing with two of Joni’s finest-ever recordings – the extraordinary title track and an elaborate setting of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ – Shine gives vent to a genuine and affecting sadness at mankind’s short-sightedness and cruelty.


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The Mekons
Natural (Touch & Go)

The MekonsOnce hailed as ‘better than the Beatles’ by the late Lester Bangs, Jon Langford’s long lived post-punk outfit (formed at Leeds University in 1977, which also incidentally gave the world the Gang Of Four), have long been credited with helping spawn the whole alt-country scene, but perhaps less well known is their dalliance with English folk - first toyed with on the ‘English Dancing Master’ EP – and it’s to this EP that Natural nods most heavily, a wonderfully ramsackle album which lulls you with chunky sweatered pastoral vibes only to spit vitriollically in your ear. It's a far cry from the early days but a cry you should be heeding.


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Metamatics
My Favourite Kind of Irrelevance: The Best of Metamatics and Norken (Hydrogen Dukebox)

MetamaticsAs mention of the Aphex Twin or words like house and techno send some of our readers scurrying from a review like startled rabbits we have decided to omit said words (aside from those already used, bugger!) in an attempt to open certain luddite ears to the beauty of Lee Norris’s Metamatics and Norken projects. Yes this is often from the glitchier, occasionally thumpier, end of the electronica market and no vocals are not a major feature – new single ‘Personal Jesus’ accepted – but this collection of material from the past decade, reveal Norris to be an artist with astonishing range, depth and soul, bin your preconceptions you won’t regret it.


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Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank (Columbia)

Kieran Hebden and Steve ReidThe newly expanded Modest Mouse, now boasting the guitar talents of one Johnny Marr, follow up their million selling 2004 album Good News For People Who Love Bad News, with another slice of ferocious Violent Femmes meets the Pixies rock clatter. Initially regarded by some to be part of the EMO scene Modest Mouse have always been just as likely to include Talking Heads style funk or Eastern European style folk in the mix – although oddly enough absolutely no Smiths style jangling – and if WWDBTSES is perhaps a couple of songs too long it’s nonetheless an excellent effort, perhaps even their best to date.


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Magazine
The Correct Use Of Soap (Virgin)

MagazineIdiotic titles aside this is certainly the most fully realised of post-punk outfit Magazines’ four studio albums (all four have now been re-released in expanded and re-mastered form by Virgin), with Martin Hannett behind the desk it features their better known moments like ‘A Song From Under The Floorboards’ and their inspired cover of Sly Stones’ ‘Thank You (Fallentinme Be Mice Elf Again)’. Combining the austere experimentalism of their previous release Secondhand Daylight and the punkier aspects of their debut Real Life, make this your kicking off point if you’ve never discovered the joys of Devoto, McGeoch, Adamson, Formula and Doyle.


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John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers
In the Palace of the King (Eagle)

John Mayall & The BluesbreakersThe discography contained on John Mayall’s website would suggest that this is something like the blues veteran’s 58th album – testimony, at the very least, to his persistence and loyalty to a form that has gone in and out of fashion numerous times since the release of John Mayall Plays John Mayall in 1965. Possibly intended in loose tribute to the soulful brand of blues pioneered by BB King, this latest effort finds the current incarnation of the Bluesbreakers hitting an appealingly warm groove throughout, with Buddy Whittington more than earning his place in the distinguished lineage of Mayall lead guitarists.


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Van Morrison
At The Movies (EMI)

Van MorrisonOkay so it’s an excuse for repackaging old material - a previously unreleased live version of ‘Moondance’ aside - but what material, stretching from Them's ‘Gloria’ and ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ right up to later material like ‘95s ‘Days Like These’. Also present and correct are ‘Jackie Wilson Said’, ‘Domino’, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, ‘Someone Like You’, ‘Queen Of The Slipstream’, the list just goes on (although digital downloaders should beware as the mighty Last Waltz version of ‘Caravan’ on the physical release is replaced by the rather less essential ‘These Are The Days’). If you don’t already own all these, and you should, then here’s your chance.


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John Martyn
Grace And Danger: Deluxe Edition (Island)

John MartynAs all long term admirers will know, even from very early on in his career, investing your hard earned in JM (both on record and live) was something of a lottery – this writer has wasted several evenings suffering through a woefully inebriated Martyn live show. That said, when JM is good he really is very, very good, and in the case of Grace And Danger he is little short of genius. Live extras and demos spread over two CDs are welcome additions for fans but the original nine tracks are what we are here for and they still stand up as some of the finest ever recorded. A genuine 24 carat classic no record collection should be without.


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Meatloaf
Bat Out Of Hell II (Virgin)

MeatloafThe Bat Out Of Hell soap opera continued this year, with the third instalment in the series arriving with a blast of over the top razzmatazz, Ol’ Meaty boy returning to the only real thing he’s involved in that doesn’t end up in the bargain bins within two weeks of release. Which seems as good a time as any to trot out the second instalment, suitably bolstered by live stuff, extra tracks and DVD gubbins - plus a download exclusive version. This actually became the fastest selling album since MJ’s Thriller when it was originally released, so no wonder everyone concerned has jumped back on the bandwagon.


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Mott The Hoople & Ian Hunter
The Journey: A Retrospective (Sony)

Mott The HoopleAn extensive 3 CD box - nicely packaged with a hefty 36 page booklet - tracking Hunter's career from Mott’s late '60s early wilderness years on Island Records, through the successful (Bowie ‘All The Young Dudes’ kick-started) glam rocker years and beyond to his highly underrated solo career. Some fans may find fault with the omission of personal favourites but long term Mott-o-philes should be placated by early B-sides and unreleased tracks, and as an introduction to Hunter's impressive career for newbies it’s a great starting point. Now if someone could just set about re-releasing some of the cracking solo stuff like The Artful Dodger please.


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Mars Volta
Amputechture (Island)

Mars VoltaThankfully eschewing the hellish confusing track listing of their previous effort Frances The Mute the Mars Volta return with, for them at least, a more song based album – ‘Vermicide’ is only 4.15 long!!!, Oh, alright there are two eleven minute tracks and one of almost seventeen minutes – although the convoluted time signatures, genre mashing u-turns, totally unintelligible lyrics and hidden depths are all still present and correct but they seem finally to have locked into a, albeit incredibly open-minded and experimental, groove providing a continuity altogether lacking in early work like Deloused In The Comatorium.


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Motorhead
Kiss Of Death (SPV)

MotorheadA recent article in a popular grown up magazine paid tribute to the fact that Keith Richards was still alive, a feat certainly, but we think made rather easier by being humongously rich. Lemmy on the other hand has done far more to warrant snuffing it over the years and all the while wondering where the hell his next meal is coming from. So lets raise a glass to the real godfather of rock, a man who has not only just released one of the heaviest, and best, albums of his career aged 60 (listen and quake young pretenders), but in ‘God Was Never On Your Side’, also delivered his finest lyric ever. We really are not worthy.


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Pat Metheny & Brad Mehldau
Metheny Mehldau (Nonesuch)

Pat Metheny & Brad MehldauCollaborations between ‘big hitters’ are hardly unfamiliar in the jazz world these days, so it was probably only a matter of time before guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Brad Mehldau – whose reworkings of Radiohead and Nick Drake songs have brought crossover success – joined forces. Happily, this is no watered-down soft-sell; rather it’s a contemporary jazz record highlighting the remarkable gifts of both players. Elaborate duo pieces dominate, although the two tracks cut with Mehldau’s regular trio – especially ‘Ring of Life’, powered by astounding drummer Jeff Ballard – suggest that a full quartet record could be very special indeed.


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Moloko
Catalogue (Echo)

MolokoLong overdue round up of one of our most underrated, experimental and sadly now no longer with us, pop acts (although in truth if you want the real off-the-wall stuff head for the album tracks), especially when you realise just how much of this you know, and have doubtless cut a rug to over the last decade. Marrying FON studio veteran Mark Brydon’s deft production skills with off kilter chanteuse Roisin Murphy’s eclectic vocals Moloko were an unendingly inventive partnership which this collection admirably outlines. Hardcore fans should check out the many different download only options, the merely curious should head for the plastic version.


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Mojave 3
Puzzles Like You (4AD)

Damien DempseyEx-Slowdive man Neal Halstead and his compadres’ fifth album and hog tie my chuck wagon if it ain’t one of those durn country records, yup, that’s right, arch shoe shuffling miserablists Mojave 3 go all upbeat country on our asses, and danged if it ain’t purty good (can we knock the cowboy banter on the head now please? – Ed). Of course this being Mojave 3 the songs remain thought provoking, bittersweet and lyrically inventive and there’s still the odd downbeat ballad for those that miss the introspective likes of the masterful Out Of Tune, jest don’t go squatting with your spurs on ya’ll (sigh – Ed).


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Morrissey
Ringleaders Of The Tormentors (Attack/Sanctuary)

Morrissey“I am walking through Rome with my heart on a string,” sings a lightheaded Morrissey, although a reference to “explosive kegs/Between my legs” suggests some rather more, um, earthy concerns. Ringleaders Of The Tormentors is being written up as the album in which Moz ‘submits’ to the pleasures of the flesh, although that’s cobblers, as anyone who heard 1994’s Vauxhall & I will attest. He is, however, unexpectedly direct, the declarations of emotional turbulence wrapped up in a muscular, dramatic production by the great Tony Visconti. More elaborate and consistent that 2004’s You Are The Quarry, the Morrissey revival continues.


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Massive Attack
Collected (Virgin)

Massive AttackAnyone who heard the gorgeous recent new single ‘Live With Me’ could not have failed to have been just a little disappointed to learn that it preceded a ‘best of’ collection rather than a brand new album, but whilst a new album would be most welcome (especially if ‘Live With Me’ is anything to go by), a retrospective look at Massive Attack is also well overdue, and what a back catalogue to choose from. There genuinely isn’t a bad track here and in ‘Teardrop’, and ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ it’s possessed of two of the finest tracks recorded in the last twenty years, if you hurry you can also pick up a fine double disc set with extra remixes and videos.


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Mogwai
Mr Beast (PIAS)

MogwaiYou wouldn’t think there'd be a lot of mileage left in the old ‘quiet bit followed by loud bit’ or 'progressively getting louder and louder’ approach would you? But that would be reckoning without the mighty Mogwai who have turned the, rather mundane in some hands, act of hearing-a-pin-drop-becoming-a-wall-of-sound into something of an art form. Lurching from beautiful, gently undulating ambience to massive tsunami’s of white guitar noise (sometimes in barely an instant), this is music to watch typhoons pass, the soundtrack to tectonic plate movement, the musical equivalent of nature in all her wild, unfettered, dangerous glory.


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Passing Stranger (San Remo/Proper)

Scott MatthewsThere’s been a buzz about Scott Matthews for some time now, and it’s more than fulfilled by his full-length solo debut, which crystallises a genre-crossing style rooted in strong songwriting. His pinched-but-exhilarated vocal delivery often recalls Jeff Buckley – a debt that Matthews seemingly acknowledges on tabla-driven highlight ‘Dream Song’, an exquisite distant cousin of Buckley’s own ‘Dream Brother’ – but his melodic songwriting style, often bathed in slow-drift harmonies, is very much his own. Overlong with too many instrumental interludes but still plenty here to suggest that Scott Matthews will become a major talent.


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Morning Runner
Wilderness Is Paradise Now (Parlophone)

Morning RunnerWord is that Coldplay's 2005 album X&Y was partly inspired by Morning Runner so their debut, Wilderness Is Paradise Now, is likely to cause something of a fuss. Combining classic indie rock chops with the sort of passionate songwriting which informs the best Embrace, Travis and yes, Coldplay moments. Frontman Matthew Greener has a fine, if not immediately so, voice that’s often as raw as his lyrics, but grows on you with each repeat listen, and the eleven tracks are chock full of the sort of big old tune which will doubtless have festival audiences swaying like fields of corn this summer, a fine debut from a very promising band.


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Mclusky
Mcluskyism (Too Pure)

Mclusky If they had only ever recorded ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ and ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ that alone would have been enough to justify Mclusky's existence, but there was so much more to their Half Man Half Biscuit meets Pixies clatter. Sadly this hugely underrated Cardiff trio are now no more, they are an ex-Mclusky, they have ceased to be, and that is a crying shame. If you can stretch to it head straight for the 3CD boxset, if not pick up the single CD effort, but you'd best be prepared to then head back and buy the entire (three album) back catalogue, ‘cos they really were that good


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The Minus 5
The Minus 5: The Gun Album (Cooking Vinyl)

The Minus 5Scott McCaughey and friends (and with friends like Peter Buck, Bill Rieflin and Jeff Tweedy to call on McCaughey is a lucky man indeed), padding around in Beatles/Beach Boys/ELO territory, but whilst the music is defiantly upbeat the lyrical matters definitely tend towards the grim – which may explain why the album sleeve comes decorated with a pistol – imagine the Magic Numbers if their lyricist been Ian Curtis or an exponentially glummer Kinks and you’re in the general area. Maudlin subject matter accepted however this is a beautifully melodic album and perhaps the best effort in McCaughey’s seven album career to date.


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Motörhead
Inferno: 30th Anniversary CD & DVD (SPV)

Last years fine Inferno album now expanded - as part of a 30th anniversary package - to include a DVD with the ‘Whorehouse Blues’ video (and making of doc), six song’s taken from a 2005 set at Hammersmith, an interview with cover designer Joe Petagno, and a documentary (with most of the main players, including all of the original trio, contributing) wherein Phil Campbell sagaciously likens the Motörhead sound to ‘like taking a big shit after a curry’ when in fact the monumental sound is due in no small part to the fact nobody has ever had the balls to tell Lemmy you’re not supposed to strum bass guitars.

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Bob Marley & The Wailers
Soul Rebels (Silverline: DualDisc)

Rootsy Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry produced early outing for Bob Marley and the Wailers expanded to include a complete 5.1 mix on the DVD side with ten bonus tracks – including Upsetter instrumental versions – and CD-ROM section which navigates to web pages with an archive of early Wailer pictures and some liner notes, none of which really stretches the DualDisc format in any way (no video’s here for example) but there’s no doubting that most of the extra tracks are a welcome inclusion and the surround sound will definitely appeal to those of you that have the right gear to both smoke and play this on.

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Madness
Divine (EMI Sight & Sound)

If ever a band were made for double CD/DVD packages then that band is the mighty Madness, with a positively obscene amount of timeless Ska-fuelled, classic pop nuggets under their collective belts - between ’79 and ’82 Madness pretty much owned the singles charts - and a well deserved reputation for making entertaining, generally idiotically cheap, videos that, unlike many more expensive efforts from the era, bear repeat viewings. This set really does have it all, twenty four songs, twenty eight vids and barely a duffer amongst ‘em, all together now ‘Good morning miss, can I help you son? Sixteen today, and up for fun’.

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Bob Marley
Africa Unite: The Singles Collection (Island/Tuff Gong)

Bob MarleyCelebrating the fact that, had he lived, Bob Marley would have been 60 this year - the Africa Unite concert in Ethiopia, marked the actual date of his birthday (Feb 6) - we now have this fine collection of twenty singles, almost forty if you hurry and snap up the limited bonus disc edition, including pre Island Records cuts, several new remixes and, most interesting of all for Marley fans of old, ‘Slogans’ the first new official Bob Marley track in more than a decade. Originally demoed in 1979, overdubbed by sons Stephen and Ziggy and featuring the guitar talents of Eric Clapton it proves that Bob Marley still had a lot left to say. He is greatly missed.


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Mew
And The Glass Handed Kites (BMG)

MewNot sure when it happened but prog is no longer a dirty word – see also the Mars Volta and Oceansize – leaving the road clear for this Danish four piece to lob everything including the kitchen sink into the mix and proving there never was anything wrong with prog, just bad prog. This is an immense great swaggering bugger of an album, seamlessly segueing each track into something that promptly hurtles off in another direction leaving the listener breathlessly wondering what the hell just whopped ‘em upside the head. Epic is a word often bandied about in music reviews but seldom has an album deserved the description more

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Múm
Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today Is OK (Morr Music)

Múm There can be little more depressing for a musician than finding yourself inextricably linked to a record company who don't seem suitably enthused about your latest project. So it was for Icelandic quartet Múm - the brainchild of Gunnar Örn Tynes, Örvar Smárason, Kristín and Gyda Valtýsdóttir – who, thankfully for all concerned, have now finally regained control of their utterly delightful debut album. Skittering, glitching and bunny-hopping it’s way around a series of beautifully melodic themes, occasionally tipping over into clattering breakdowns before hauling itself back into calmer waters, leaving the listener thoroughly entranced

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Murcof
Remembranza (The Leaf Label)

MurcofThose of you lucky enough to have encountered Tijuana born Fernando Corona’s previous outing Martes will already be aware of his wonderfully deft marrying of modern classicism, al la Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki, and the heavily textured minimalism of glitch electronica, yet more of which can be found on his equally entrancing second release (remix album Utopia aside) Remembranza. If you have yet to dip your toe in such alien sounding waters you may feel disinclined to do so, but you would then be missing some of the most beautiful, albeit often unsettlingly beautiful, noise available, so go on, get paddling

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John Martyn
Bless the Weather (Island)

John MartynAfter two collaborative albums with wife Beverley, John Martyn struck out on his own once again to record 1971's beautiful, ruminative Bless the Weather. The resonantly woody double bass of long-time collaborator Danny Thompson and Martyn's own expressive guitar and lived-in vocals are to the fore on a set of songs that span archetypal 'acoustic John' ('Head and Heart') and tentative moves towards more expansive song structures ('Glistening Glyndebourne'). The album is one of the highlights of a series of remastered-with-bonus-bits reissues that also includes the experimental Inside Out and Sunday's Child, the latter probably Martyn's most underrated album.


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Mattafix
Signs Of A Struggle (Buddhist Punk)

MattafixDance music may still be in deep recession but it’s precisely when something is being more or less ignored by the mainstream that it throws up the ‘next big thing’. Not that Mattafix are offering us anything remarkably new or sonically astonishing but they are displaying welcome signs of a bass heavy, wooby sub-aquatic Massive Attack style fug married to a neat knack for nailing that all important hook. Unlike much of the hedonistic dance scene they also display a thoughtful line in lyrical concerns and some truly quirky instrumental flourishes – not shying away from guitars, or indeed steel pans, when the fancy takes them.


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The Mitchell Brothers
A Breath Of Fresh Attire (The Beats)

Mitchell BrothersAlthough this will almost certainly find itself in the grime section at record shops, the first release on Mike ‘The Streets’ Skinners’ The Beats label - the album is also produced by Skinner and he crops up on several tracks – find the Mitchell Brothers exhibiting the same inventive narrative flair as their mentor, who also peppers the album with the sort of melodic nuggets found in his own work. Nominally more hardcore than Skinners own efforts The Mitchell Brothers are still story tellers, as opposed to braggarts, chatting about the realities (girls, fights, raves, clothes, police) of being a young black geezer in present day London


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Massive Attack
Unleashed OST (Virgin)

Massive AttackGiven the predilection these days for using the latest chart fodder as movie soundtracks, or the sheer aimless noodling some original score albums are reduced to when stripped of their visual stimuli you may be forgiven for approaching most OST’s with some suspicion. If anyone was going to get the whole soundtrack ambience thing just right tho’ it was always going to be Massive Attack as this Luc Besson commissioned soundtrack for Unleashed proves. From lush strings to spooked beats, thunderous racket and beyond this twenty-one track effort could just as easily pass for their latest artist album


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Mad Professor
Method To The Madness (Trojan)

Mad ProfessorBetter known to his mum and dad as Neil Fraser the Guyana born electronics bod and lovers rock fan decamped to London and by 1979 had begun making four track recordings (under the Ariwa banner) in his living room. Naturally enough it’s his high profile remix work for acts like Massive Attack, the Orb and Jamiroquai (all of which populate the second of the CD's on offer here) which will act as the ‘come buy me’ temptation for Prof newbies, but it’s on CD1, featuring his lesser known work with Sister Audrey, John McLean, Earl 16, Chukki Starr, Horace Andy and others, that the real gems are to be found.


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The Magic Numbers
The Magic Numbers (Heavenly)

Magic NumbersThere’s always one, every year around this time the music press desperately cast around for their ‘sound of the summer’ release – which generally means some unashamedly poppy, upbeat, joyous, sing-a-long-a-festival-crowd type material that sounds like a toss up between the Mamas and Papas, Jimmy Webb and, erm, Space - and lo and behold here’s 2005’s entry courtesy of a pair of sibling duo’s Romeo and Michelle Stodart and Sean and Angela Gannon. Think west coast style vocal harmonies, think early sixties country driven pop and then add just a soupcon of Flaming Lips type indie know-how and Bob’s yer aunties husband


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Steve Malkmus
Face The Truth (Domino)

Steve MalkmusNot entirely sure what makes an album credit Steve Malkmus and the Jicks (as on previous effort Pig Lib) or, as in this case, Mr Malkmus alone, but then being a contrary bugger is just part of the Man's appeal. Steadily chiselling out the sort of career that most people foresaw (wrongly as it now seems) for Beck the ex-Pavement frontman – god, I bet he hates being called that – continues gleefully genre hopping. Less strident than Pig Lib, Face The Truth finds Malkmus in more thoughtful lyrical mode but no less adventurous musically careering from country though psychedelia to pop and beyond.


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Magnolia Electric Co.
What Comes After The Blues (Strictly Canadian)

Magnolia Electric Co.Recorded more or less live in Steve ‘luddite? Me?’ Albini’s Electric Audio studio in Chicago - resulting in What Comes After The Blues sounding a bit like it was recorded through a large Hessian blanket – Jason Molina and pals follow the critically acclaimed Trials And Errors with a set of songs that can best be described as beautifully depressing. Closest signpost for newbies would be a down-tempo alt-country Neil Young (a comparison Molina is struggling to shake due to his very distinctive voice), with a hefty nod towards Hank Williams which, even on paper, looks pretty damn enticing.


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Peter Murphy
Unshattered (Artful)

Peter MurphyThe first recorded endeavours of ex-Bauhaus front man Pete Murphy since 2002’s middle eastern epic Dust, this time he is on more or less recognisable ground, basso-profundo Bowie croon and an ear for a melodic hook intact. More or less eschewing the bombast of his earlier material, this is an introspective, thoughtful Murphy (although in truth some of the material here dates back many years), and if the quality control lapses on occasion, it is only very occasionally, as tracks like Face Of The Moon, The Weight Of Love and Idle Flow are certainly amongst the best things he has ever recorded.


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M.I.A.
Arular (XL)

M.I.A.Resolutely lo-fi from the off, Arular is built almost entirely around the most bare, minimal beats, throbbing pulses and sparse synth stabs and M.I.A.’s (aka Missing In Action, aka Tamil refugee Maya Arulpragasam) dancehall/ragga style chatting, which might lead you to expect a pretty one-dimensional experience, but not a bit of it. Created in the main on a battered old Roland 505 (loaned to her by Peaches) Maya oozes attitude and unashamed DIY ethics, mixing UK street slang with more pointed references to her not so distant past stuck in the middle of a Civil War, this is an astonishing debut.


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Mars Volta
Frances The Mute (Island)

Mars VoltaThey may be tiring of the prog-rock label but ex-At The Drive In bods Cedric Bixler-Zavalas and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (who rightly insists ‘how can any innovative music not be progressive?’), have done absolutely bugger all to dispel the label on their latest album with a cover designed by the ‘prog’ designer Storm Thorgerson, a storyline as convoluted as it is confusing and a track-listing that bears only a passing nod to what is on the album. But this is progressive music informed by funk, punk and Latin grooves, a mind mashing rollercoaster of a ride that has you jumping straight back on as soon as it grinds to a halt.


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Mogwai
Government Commissions (PIAS)

MogwaiIntroduced from the stage at Maida Vale by the much lamented, and greatly missed John Peel, this collection of BBC Radio Sessions stands as both a fine example of the music Peel championed and an excellent example of the sort of sonic sorcery you might encounter at a live Mogwai event. There’s nothing here you might hum, or jig around to, but then we already have far too much of that kind of thing chundering out of the radio and TV. Nope this is passionate visceral noise married to beautiful restrained ambience and serves as a dead impressive stopgap until the next album proper which is due this year.


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Morrissey
Live At Earls Court (Attack/Sanctuary)

MorrisseyIt was perhaps inevitable that there would a live document of Morrissey’s extraordinary comeback year but, if anything, it’s a more essential purchase than You Are the Quarry, the studio release that prompted it all. Recorded at the very last show of a lengthy world tour, Morrissey and band are in thrilling form, despatching confident versions of Quarry highlights like ‘You Knew I Couldn’t Last’, and a clutch of Smiths standards – the clanging, bordering-on- metallic ‘Shoplifters’ is particularly bracing (take a bow, drummer Deano Butterworth). As the man himself notes at one points: “It’s either this – or prison.” You’d better believe it.


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Pat Metheny Group
The Way Up (Nonesuch)

Pat Metheny GroupFor over three decades, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny has led a distinctly two-tier career. On the one hand, churning out a long succession of successful – but increasingly safe – albums with PMG; on the other, an eclectic sequence of solo albums spanning country, folk and avant-garde influences (1994’s ear-battering Zero Tolerance For Silence being the most surprising of all). Finally, with The Way Up, it looks like he’s finding a way to fuse the two approaches. A single, 68-minute ‘through-composition’ of striking themes and remarkable playing, the PMG’s Nonesuch debut is contemporary jazz at its most vibrant.


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John Martyn
Classics (Artful)

John MartynHe’s been in the wars of late poor John Martyn, self induced of course as he does love a bevvie, and sadly his recent lower limb loss and chronic inability to moderate his alcoholic intake go hand in hand. It could also be argued that we need yet more versions of these, unarguably fine, JM compositions as much as John needs more leg surgery (his back catalogue is almost equal to the Fall's prodigious output), but Martyn virgins, yet to sample his often achingly beautiful and melancholy jazzy folk rock, his desperately soulful croak and his prodigious guitar skills, could do worse than pick up this double live set.


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Marilyn Manson
Lest We Forget… (Interscope)

Marilyn MansonBit late this (released before Christmas) but, given that initially there were those that believed Manson to be a one trick pony who would run out of steam soon after his early work with Trent Reznor, the fact we even have a Best Of… will doubtless confound many nay-sayers. Indeed if he had only ever recorded The Reflecting God and Irresponsible Hate Anthem (both here), he would have added immeasurably to the harder than hardcore metal scene, but add songs like The Fight Song, Disposable Teens and The Beautiful People and this back catalogue adds up to something very special indeed.

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Mötley Crüe
Red, White & Crue (Mercury)

Mötley CrüeIf ever a band came to exemplify all that was crass, shallow, mindless and just plain wrong-headed about metal it was the ludicrous Mötley Crüe. Read any of the numerous ‘warts-an-all’ biog’s around and you’ll find an endless stream of the sort of on tour antics that would put Led Zeppelin (and indeed Genghis Khan) to shame. As for the music, well if you like your hair big, your guitars squealing, your women kneeling and naked and your lyrics idiotic – and let’s be honest, millions of meatheads did – then this album will leave you in hog heaven. Hard to describe this as a ‘best of…’ but nonetheless that’s what it is.


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Mennen
Freakazoid (Escapi)

MennenIf you like your rock with as much melody as crunch, aren’t opposed to a bit of a chorus (albeit a chorus with rubbish lyrics), like plenty of high speed staccato high pitched squealy bits in your guitar solo’s and don’t get all crinkled in the brow department when things occasionally slow down then you will definitely be at home to Mennen. Think Def Leppard meets early Van Halen - or indeed any of those pyrotechnic anthemic stadium rock oufits - and you’re not a million miles away, and don’t be put of by the singers orange barnet or the albums, frankly daft, title, big shorts' sporting skate punk this ain’t.


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Man
And In The Beginning... (Castle)

ManIf, like several old duffers in this office, you recall paddling in warm beer, wearing desert boots, loon pants and grandad shirts at shows by Stray, Good Habit, Focus, Uriah Heep and this lot, and your record collection has seen better days, then this double CD set may well warm your old cockles and inject a fresh spring into your aged step. If, however, you are a young tyke never initiated into the joys of choogling boogie with a large dose of daffy Welsh mysticism, you might be advised to approach with caution (interested parties should probably just read Deke Leonard’s very entertaining books instead).


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