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Public Service Broadcasting
Inform - Educate - Entertain (Test Card Recordings)

Public Service Broadcasting Debut album from Mr J. Willgoose, Esq.and Mr Wrigglesworth - collectively known as Public Service Broadcasting - who, possibly lacking a vocalist worthy of the name, use samples from public information films, live instruments like guitar banjo and drums, and various electronic doo-hickeys to create some, frankly really rather fantastic, tunes pitched somewhere between The Orb, Primal Scream, Kraftwerk and Boards Of Canada, which really is as good as it sounds. It might not be an entirely new concept (Grasscut also paddle around in this particular pool), but PSB do it with tremendous invention and wit.
Drew Bass

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Public Enemy
The Evil Empire Of Everything (Spit Digital/Wienerworld)

Public Enemy Contrary buggers Public Enemy, and they continue to defy expectations by ending a five year hiatus with not one but two releases only months apart. So chances are if you’re a fan you will already be aware of the return to form that was Most Of My Heroes Don’t Appear On No Stamp and that form continues here only where MOMHDAONS was a definite, if sleeker, hark back to glory days The Evil Empire Of Everything strips things back even more brutally (aside from the full blown Stax-esque soul testifying of ‘Everything’), great to hear that the guys may be older but remain completely unbowed, yeah boyeee...
Drew Bass

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Peaking Lights
Lucifer In Dub (Domino)

Peaking LightsFollowing up on last year’s critically lauded 936 was never going to be easy and yet Lucifer managed to just about perfectly balance ‘more of the same’ motorik-psych-dub whilst subtly tightening things up somewhat and moving their sound forward. So, given the duo’s love of reverb soaked repetition perhaps it's not surprising that they should actually release a full on dub reworking of Lucifer which works very well indeed, and if Aaron and Indra occasionally ladle a little too much of the previous albums ingredients into the soup (dub is after all supposed to be stripped back), joining the original track to its dub really works wonders.
Drew Bass

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Pineapple Thief
All The Wars (Kscope)

Pineapple ThiefAnother in Kscope’s roster of top-notch prog-metallers (see also Porcupine Tree and Anathema who have sort of stolen the march on Pineapple Thief here as their terrifically epic string laden opus came out in April), the new album from The Pineapple Thief find’s Bruce Soord and Co. further refining their widescreen template, adding string sections and choirs to the mix but make no mistake this is still decidedly a rock album building cyclically evolving soundscapes from muscular riffing, thunderous drumming, stark piano phrasing and swathes of the aforementioned strings and what appears to be a choir of thousands.
Ray Harper

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Public Image Limited
This Is PiL (PiL official)

Public Image Limited The best of John Lydon’s back catalogue has always happened when he has surrounded himself with inventive people, and then listened to what they have to say, from the early Levene/Wobble days to later work with Bill Laswell and such is the case on this excellent return to form, with ex Pop Group drummer Bruce Smith and bass man Scott Frith’s dub-centric footings lending plenty of bowel loosening wobble. But it’s ex Damned/Mekons guitarist Lu Edmonds who really makes his presence felt, from icy shards via eastern tinged hypnotics to outright racket, Lydon’s sneering worldview hasn’t been so well framed since Album.
Ruby Palmer

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Van Dyke Parks
Song Cycle (Bella Union)

Van Dyke Parks If you don’t know the name that’s because the man himself has, until recently, been happy to describe himself as a ‘beta male’ helping to advance the careers of others (most notably the Beach Boys on SMiLE) whilst ensuring his own remained an acquired taste. A fine example of this contrary nature can be found on his debut album Song Cycle (1967) which drew on bluegrass, ragtime, show tunes and all points in-between leaving most listeners entirely nonplussed but there was much here for the more discerning listener and in hindsight Song Cycle proved to be a massively bravura, one-of-a-kind effort.
Ray Harper

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Augustus Pablo
Skanking Easy (Metro)

Augustus Pablo Fans of dub will doubtless already be well aware of the work of Horace ‘Augustus Pablo’ Swaby and from the rumbling bass line and skittering snare beats that kick off opening track ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’ (a King Tubby engineered dub version of the Pablo produced Jacob Miller song ‘Baby I Love You’, which is also to be found here), you find yourself propelled straight into dub nirvana, Pablo’s trademark melodica weaving around the spaced out, bass driven and echo laden dub cuts. For old time fans there are several hard to find 12” dub plates and for newbies a positive treasure trove of wonderful, timeless roots reggae.
Drew Bass

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Pearl Jam
Live On Ten Legs (Island)

Pearl Jam By our count this should not only be 'twelve legs' but will make the seventh Pearl Jam live outing (and that’s not including their own bootleg series of live releases), so what is there to recommend this over and above any of the others? Well the sound for one, as whilst this is clearly live – plenty of audience participation on choruses – it is also very muscular (unlike the Live On Two Legs live set), cherry picking choice live cuts from their extensive live back catalogue and then remixing and re-mastering to ensure every last drop of sweat makes it into the finished article, in short it’s the best Pearl Jam concert ever.
Ruby Palmer

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Pama Intl Meet Mad Professor
Rewired In Dub! (Rockers Revolt)

Pama Intl Meet Mad Professor If, like us, you are fond of Pama International (check out the album review archives) and, like us again, particularly fond of dub then rejoice and give praise as the Pama bods have let The Mad Professor loose on their recent Pama Outernational album and the results are uniformly great (in fact one of the more technically minded bods in the office has spliced the dubs onto the end of the original tracks for that authentic dancehall feel, bless him). If you loved the parent album then you will be delighted with this sibling as the Prof sprinkles his spaced, bass heavy dub magic all over the shop and you really should add it to your Pama collection.
Drew Bass

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Robert Plant
Band of Joy (Decca)

Robert PlantPost-Led Zep reunion, Robert Plant has settled into a nice, rootsy groove which allows him to demonstrate that, in addition to being a soaring rock vocalist par excellence, he is able to tackle more restrained material with skill and feeling. While Raising Sand – with Alison Krauss – won a truckload of awards, it actually suffered from mid-album sag; happily, the Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller-assisted Band of Joy is more consistent. If little here scales the heights of Plant’s last album of originals, 2005’s tremendous Mighty ReArranger, the great man’s obvious and enduring delight in music-making is still a joy to behold.
David Davies

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Propaganda
A Secret Wish (Salvo)

PropagandaIt’s true to say that many of the ‘deluxe re-issues’ being released are pretty duff cash in efforts with ‘never before released’ extras included that should have remained just that. This however, the only ‘proper’ album by Propaganda is an absolute joy, the efforts of Claudia Brücken, Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper still sounding amazingly current, even given the ‘80s palette of Fairlight synth sounds they largely worked with, and for once the second disc of ‘rarities’ is just that with a 20-minute cassette only mix of ‘Duel’ entitled ‘Do Well’ just one of the gleaming little nuggets to be found herein.
Ruby Palmer

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Robert Palmer
At The BBC (Universal)

Robert PalmerRobert Palmer really doesn’t get his due in the pantheon of pop, his angular white boy funk may well have been hijacked and pooped on later by acts like Go West but he really was a genuine innovator. True, you do have to ignore some properly horrendous ‘80s synth sounds on this ‘80s live set but if this album does nothing more it highlights what a fantastic voice Palmer had, or more truthfully what magnificent use he made of very mediocre base material (listen to the phrasing and improvising on ‘Sneaking Sally Through The Alley’), and tracks like ‘Woke Up Laughing’ and ‘Johnny And Mary ’ are tremendous.
Ray Harper

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Nigel Price Organ Trio
Live! (Jazzizit)

Nigel Price Organ TrioFans of the James Taylor Quartet will already be aware of guitarist Nigel Price through his work with The JTQ (yes, that’s right, guitarist, Nigel just enjoys playing with organs [oh stop it- Ed]), and is well known in UK jazz circles as a fine funk and acid jazz player, however what we have here is Price – with Pete Whittaker on Hammond and Matt Home on drums - in Wes Montgomery mode (he even covers ‘S.O.S.’ and ‘Jingles’ and Wes’s brother Buddy’s ‘Bock To Bock’) and fans of organ driven jazz by the likes of Jack McDuff and Jimmy Smith and the breezy early jazz guitar playing of George Benson will find plenty to love here.
Paul Riley

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Pama International
Pama Outernational (Rockers Revolt)

Pama InternationalLong term readers should already be acquainted with the Pama’s – given that they were behind Love Filled Dub Band one of our albums of the year in 2008. Having set the bar so high previously however they were on a bit of a hiding to nothing this time around and in truth the songs are rather more soul infused, and certainly more accessible than before (although the dub sections remain deeply authentic). If you have never encountered the band then you should probably first pick up the truly stupendous Love Filled Dub Band, however if you are already on the Pama bandwagon then this is a worthy addition.
Drew Bass

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Procol Harum
Exotic Birds and Fruit (Salvo)

Procol HarumThe latest from Salvo’s re-issue campaign, this time from the mid-seventies incarnation of Procol who, after several albums that toyed with orchestral prog, returned to basics and delivered one of the finest albums of their long and varied career. Indeed as an opening statement of intent ‘Nothing But The Truth’ takes some beating, haring out of the gates, riffing like mad and stomping like a boot-boy. Not that the grand gestures are entirely discarded as ‘The Idol’ adds layer upon layer of keyboard and guitar and ‘The Thin End of the Wedge’ get’s seriously gothic and they even find space for a music hall diversion on ‘Exotic Fruit’.
Ray Harper

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Prefab Sprout
Let’s Change the World With Music (Kitchenware/Sony)

Prefab Sprout As has been widely documented in recent interviews, LCTWWM was demoed in the early ‘90s but shelved after a lukewarm reaction from Sony. Whoever gave the thumbs-down must have had cloths ears because LCTWWM – loosely themed around the idea of transcendence through music – comprises one of Paddy McAloon’s finest achievements. Featuring the original demos newly spruced-up by engineer Calum Malcolm, this is a masterclass in melody writing. Prepare to be wowed by the gorgeous ‘God Watch Over You’, and what’s not to love about the namechecks for Debussy, Chic and Pierre Boulez that litter ‘I Love Music’?
David Davies

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Porcupine Tree
The Incident (Roadrunner)

Porcupine TreeIf you have followed the undulating career path of Porcupine Tree you will already be aware that they have consistently changed tack over the years – although never entirely deserting the more progressive end of the market, or indeed chasing the quick buck – but on this occasion they seem to have decided (whether consciously or not) to embrace all of their past over a single 55 minute track split into fourteen parts, encompassing everything from Floyd-esque ambience to clattering nosebleed prog metal and for once an additional ‘bonus’ CD of extra tracks prove to be worthy additions rather than studio floor sweepings.
Ray Harper

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Pere Ubu
Long Live Père Ubu! (Cooking Vinyl)

Pere UbuOK, deep breath, Long Live Père Ubu! is inspired by Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi – itself a satiric re-telling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth – and is the soundtrack to a musical entitled Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi (staged for the first time in London in 2008 and featured David Thomas in the role of Père Ubu, Sarah Jane Morris (ex-Communards) as Mère Ubu and the rest of the band in supporting roles). So far so convoluted. To add spice to the proceedings the avowedly awkward David Thomas then refused to speak to his band whilst writing the songs which in all honesty will probably only appeal to long term Ubu Projex fans'.
Ruby Palmer

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Procol Harum
A Salty Dog: 40th Anniversary Series (Fly/Salvo)

Procul HarumWith their entire catalogue now updated, remastered and re-issued, all now boasting bonus tracks, and informative booklets A Salty Dog, Procol Harum’s third album release, was undoubtedly Brooker and Co’s high water mark (although there was still lots of good material to come). Released in June of 1969, A Salty Dog was an adventurous album (even in what is generally recognised as an adventurous era) peppered with that trademark dual Hammond/Piano keyboard sound, Robin Trower’s bluesy wailing and of course Brooker’s soulful moan. If you want a classic music collection this needs to be in it.
Ray Harper

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Post War Years
The Greats And The Happenings (Wealth)

Post War Years Not the only young tykes currently squishing electronic parps into skinny leather rock pants Post War Years elevate themselves above much of the competition by not only sounding like early XTC meets Remain In Light era Talking Heads with the odd dash of Todd Rundgren (if you can imagine such a wayward beast), but also by peppering The Greats And The Happenings with just as much wayward, glitchy awkwardness as chart bothering frugging ramalama, and the fact that they hail from infertile pop wasteland Leamington Spa (the third largest town in the country apparently), only makes us like them more.
Ruby Palmer

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Pure Reason Revolution
Amor Vincit Omina (Superball)

Pure Reason RevolutionThe follow up to TM-O 2006 favourite The Dark Third, Amor Vincit Omina takes the bands proggy leanings in a more melodic, whisper it, pop direction bringing the synths stage front and allowing less room for manic riffage which actually works well and occasionally brings to mind the choral-prog of Magma (no bad thing). The only jarring notes are the pop-goes-Kraftwerk ‘Disconnect’ and the anaemic ‘Bloodless’, but ‘Keep Me Sane/Insane’, ‘Apogee’, ‘Requiem For The Lovers’, ‘Deus Ex Machina’ and ‘Avo’ are terrifically and energetically over the top. Oh and the office Latin spud tells me the title means love conquers all.
Ray Harper

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Prodigy
Invaders Must Die (Cooking Vinyl)

ProdigyHaving lost his way somewhat with the flabby, all-star Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned Liam Howlett has clearly had a bit of a re-think, given his old muckers Keith Flint and Maxim Reality a bell, re-plugged the lead marked ‘tricksy clattering breakbeats’, dug out the CD marked ‘smart samples’ and remembered just what it was about rave that pushed his buttons back in the day (‘Take Me To The Hospital’ is none-more-rave racket and yes, that’s a very good thing indeed). Some might call it retro, and some might be right, it is, but Howlett’s noughties rave is more muscular and a welcome return to form.
Drew Bass

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Pavement
Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creedance Edition (Domino)

PavementSome say Slanted and Enchanted, some plump for Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, in the land of the Pavement fan there are many theories about their finest moment. But in a poll for the most fully realised of all their releases Brighten The Corners must surely be a major contender. Of course ‘fully realised’ in the land of the Pavies would still be mind-bendingly obtuse in just about any other camp - and once again Domino have gone the extra mile with the bonus cuts (there are bloody loads, and a lot of ‘em are far from throwaway) – and whilst this remains their most accessible offering, it’s still a creatively diverse and complex album.
Ruby Palmer

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Liz Phair
Exile In Guyville

Liz PhairHaving started out releasing lo-fi cassettes under the moniker Girly Sounds before going on to unleash her breakthrough debut album Exile In Guyville Liz Phair has always divided opinion. Peppered, as it is, with her often very blunt and occasionally sexually explicit lyrics - all delivered in her anti-singer, semi-detached vocal style - Exile In Guyville went on to receive a whole raft of rave reviews (in fact it’s debateable whether she has yet managed to top this astonishing debut), and if you don’t have it now is the time to remedy that as this re-issue comes complete with a very entertaining ‘making of...’ DVD .
Ruby Palmer

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The Prodigy
Experience Expanded: Remixes & B Sides (XL)

The ProdigyHot on the heels of the late ‘80s acid house phenomenon came the even more bug-eyed UK rave scene, mashing hi speed breakbeats with hardcore techno and looped vocals and pioneered by bands like Altern-8, Utah Saints, The Shamen and of course The Prodigy, the only band to escape the rave ghetto and go onto even greater success (their equally fine follow up Music For The Jilted Generation is also re-released in expanded form) but in 1992 this was about as cutting edge as it got, and it still sounds bloody great today, even more so with the extra disc of remixes, b-sides and rarities.
Drew Bass

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The Pineapple Thief
Tightly Unwound (Kscope)

The Pineapple ThiefEver since the Mars Volta made it alright to admit you liked prog-rock again, without having to hang your head in shame, bands who had been beavering away at this most un-cool of musical styles - regardless of pubic perceptions - have begun to pop their heads above the battlements again and, in the case of TPT, delivering excellent albums. Not a million miles removed from Oceansize in style (although with a more melodic edge) Tightly Unwound weaves gently undulating acoustica, through high speed riff driven rockers and onto sprawling fifteen minute magnum opus’s, never once sounding anything other than totally coherent.
Ray Harper

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Porcupine Tree
Lightbulb Sun (Kscope)

Porcupine TreePicking your way through the massive Porcupine Tree back catalogue – nine studio albums, four live albums and twenty plus self released or limited edition releases - is no easy task. Indeed you may not have even heard of the band (even though they have sold hundreds of thousands of albums), and if so this is as good a place as any to start a very worthwhile journey through the Tree's hugely varied, prog infused back catalogue. For fans the carrot to re-purchase is the additional DVD-A disc mixed in 5.1 with three bonus tracks, but do be warned, if you don’t have any way of playing 5.1 you won’t get to hear the extra material.
Ray Harper

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Anthony Phillips
The Geese & The Ghost (Voiceprint)

Anthony PhillipsDoubtless most of you will recall that before ‘there were three’ Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel were also members of Genesis, but how many of you remember Anthony Phillips? Before he was crippled by stage fright and quit Phillips input was integral to the bands sound so fans of the bands first two albums will find much to love here (including appearances by Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins). Phillips has since mainly concentrated on soundtrack work, including wildlife television programmes like Survival and the Natural World, but this, his debut solo album, shows what might have been had he continued down this path.
Ray Harper

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Pama International
Love Filled Dub Band (Rockers Revolt)

Pama InternationalExceptionally fine ska fuelled set which will appeal to anyone who loves their reggae rootsy and their lyrics to actually mean something. Pama International are the brainchild of Sean Flowerdew, Finny and ex-Special Lynval Golding and Love Filled Dub Band could easily have been passed off as newly discovered ‘70s era tapes found covered with dust in King Tubby’s garden shed (if not for the bang up to date lyrics), which might sound far too retro if it wasn’t for the fact that only a handful of people have managed to make dub music sound this great in the last thirty years. Yup it really is that good.
Drew Bass

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Cat Power
Jukebox (Matador)

Cat Power Hot on the heels of Chan Marshall’s critically acclaimed The Greatest comes this collection of (mainly) cover versions which fans of her earlier covers album, The Covers Record, will be happy to hear throws up as many delights as the first collection – if you have never heard her version of ‘Satisfaction’, you really should. Lending songs by, amongst others, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, James Brown and a couple of her own (a remodelled ‘Metal Heart’ and brand new ode to Dylan ‘Song To Bobby’) her sensuous croon and left-field delivery. It doesn’t all work but her singular approach ensures nothing here is less than listenable.
Ruby Palmer

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Pinch
Underwater Dancehall (Tectonic)

Pinch Bristolian label owner and dubstep mainstay Rob Ellis takes time out from Tectonic’s hectic release schedule to slip in his own collection of grime-y urban vibrations featuring an A-list of vocal talent and a real ear for melody. As good as the vocal cuts are however it’s actually the instrumental version of the album that’s been glued to the player here, positively oozing menace and attitude – recalling, to this reviewers ears at least, the work of another Bristol based institution the, sadly missed, Third Eye Foundation. Dub is clearly alive and well in the UK, and Pinch are right up there at the pointy end leading the way.
Drew Bass

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Robert Plant/Alison Krauss
Raising Sand (Rounder)

Robert Plant/Alison KraussIt’s rare these days to encounter an album that sustains one compelling mood from the moment the disc drops into the player to the very last bars, but such is the feat achieved on this beautiful set of covers by the Led Zep legend and modern bluegrass’ greatest talent. Sublimely produced by T Bone Burnett, Raising Sand spotlights two very different voices that somehow complement each other perfectly. Mixing straight- forward duets (‘Gone Gone Gone’) with solo showcases (a haunting take on Tom Waits’ ‘Trampled Rose’ for Alison, the Marc Ribot-enlivened ‘Fortune Teller’ for Robert), the end-result is never less than captivating. David Davies

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Pink Floyd
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (EMI)

Pink FloydThis 40th anniversary edition of the debut album by Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd comes beautifully packaged - a cloth bound box and picture laden booklet designed by Floyd collaborator Storm Thorgerson, including an 8 page reproduction of one of Syd Barrett’s notebooks - and contains stereo and mono mixes of the album alongside a third disc of singles, B-sides and unreleased rarities. This is pretty much year zero for British psychedelia, and like the Beatles Sgt Pepper (released the same year), still sounds incredibly fresh. Roger Waters nowadays dismisses this as rubbish but, as in many things relating to his old band, he is wrong.


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Lee Perry & The Upsetters
Ape-ology (Trojan)

Lee Perry & The Upsetters Another treasure trove of roots cuts from the prolific Lee Perry, this double CD set collecting his final work as the featured artist, rather than producer, before the demise of his legendary Black Ark home studio (more here). Although Super Ape is the better known work it’s the second CD most collectors will head for featuring the madly experimental Return Of The Super Ape, which Island Records chose not to release, and two impossible to find bonus cuts, ‘From Creation’ (plus three dub cuts) used as source material on Super Ape and ‘OK Corral’ – featuring U Roy – used as source material on Return...


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Psychic TV
Hell Is Invisible Heaven Is Her/E (Sweet Nothing/Cargo)

Psychic TVGenesis P Orridge may have turned into a goth version of Michael Jackson of late (have a quick trawl around the net to find pictures of his recent efforts to turn into a woman courtesy of the wonders of plastic surgery) and, via his industrial clatter merchants Throbbing Gristle, he may be responsible for some pretty duff noise, but there’s little doubting his huge influence in the outsider music community and even less doubting that the latest Psychic TV album is actually a snarling, bloodshot-eyed, drooling animal experiment of an album as droning, unsettling electronica tumbles headlong into warped Doors/Stones blues rock.


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Carlton Patterson & King Tubby
Black & White In Dub (Hot Pot)

Carlton Patterson & King TubbyCarlton Patterson may not be the most widely known reggae producer but having created cuts with Barrington Levy, Horace Andy, Sugar Minott, Eek-A-Mouse, I Roy, Dillinger and U Brown he was undoubtedly a major player from the mid ‘70s to the early ‘80s, which co-incidentally was just about when King Tubby was at his peak as these b-side instrumental cuts he mixed for Paterson’s Black & White label prove (if indeed any further proof were needed). The vast majority of these ‘versions’ have never seen the light of day outside of their original 7” releases making this a real treasure trove.


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Grant-Lee Phillips
Strangelet (Cooking Vinyl)

Grant-Lee Phillips“A conscious exploration of the unconscious” surmises the remarkably florid press release accompanying the one-time Grant Lee Buffalo honcho’s fifth solo album. And, in all honesty, there is a consistently intimate quality to these 12 songs that often also hint at a newfound desire to branch out, highlighted by the judicious use of LA string outfit The Section Quartet (particularly on ‘Dream In Color’). Meanwhile, several songs – ‘Runaway’, ‘So Much’ – find the lately-acoustic favouring Phillips rediscovering the joys of electricity, rounding out a collection that is probably his strongest since GLB’s mid ‘90s delight Mighty Joe Moon.


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Pavement
Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition (Domino)

PavementOriginally released in 1995 Wowee Zowee was a typically Pavement-esque step back from the brink of popularity after their almost mainstream success with previous album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and a return to the gloriously chaotic scattershot approach found on debut album Slanted And Enchanted. Not universally loved on its release the album nevertheless went on to become a fan (and critics') favourite and this superbly packaged re-issue comes with an additional 32 tracks (18 of ‘em previously unreleased), a surprising number of which leave you wondering just why they were left languishing in limbo in the first place.


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Plaid & Bob Jaroc
Greedy Baby (Warp)

Plaid & Bob JarocA 5.1 surround sound CD + DVD double pack proving that the days of simply popping forty minutes of music on a shiny disc is failing to make the best use of our current multi-media technologies, and unsurprisingly it’s an act like Plaid (on a label like Warp), which are amongst the first to take up the baton. All of the music here was written specifically for surround sound, the music and images continually passed back and forth for the best part of four years resulting in a truly integrated whole – indeed it is almost impossible to listen to this fascinating album, after watching the DVD, without mentally referencing the images.


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Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam (Sony/BMG)

Pearl JamDon’t be thrown by the amount of effort they have put into the title (you’d have thought they could have come up with something given they had four years to think about it wouldn’t you?) this is Pearl Jam in righteous anti-war mode, noisy, brash, ragged and furiously aggressive. "Now you got both sides, claiming killing in God's name, but God is nowhere to be found" spits Vedder on ‘Marker In The Sand’ one of five gloriously upbeat rackets that kick the album into gear, and one misplaced ballad aside things just continue to impress as the album progresses right up until the peak scaling seven minute wind up ‘Inside Job’.


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Pet Shop Boys
Fundamental (Parlophone)

Pet Shop BoysTheir ninth studio album and, after flirtations with stage and screen soundtracks, a no nonsense return to what they do best, club music (helped by everything-but-the-kitchen-sink producer Trevor Horn) with smart lyrics, and what lyrics, unless of course you are a member of the Government who get something of a kicking – ‘I’m With Stupid’ inspired by the Blair/Bush relationship, ‘Integral’ attacks the ID Card scheme ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ looks at asylum seekers etc. Not sure why they felt the need to include Diane Warren’s awful ‘Numb’, but just the one duffer per album these days is a something very special indeed.


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Pure Reason Revolution
The Dark Third (Holograph)

Pure Reason RevolutionThe rebirth of prog continues apace (daft track names, ‘The Twyncyn’, ‘Bullitts Dominae’, reprised themes and multi-part sections all present and correct) with this very impressive effort by Pure Reason Revolution - their name may, or may not, relate to Immanuel Kant’s 1781 masterwork Critique of Pure Reason. Compared by some cloth eared reviewers to Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, PRR are in fact far closer in style to Yes or Rush if they were fronted by Rumours era Stevie Nicks the contemporary edge provided by far more muscular guitar sounds, on occasion bordering on the all out six string assaults of Mogwai.


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Liam Prodigy
Back To Mine (DMC)

Liam ProdigyKicking off with the machine shudder of ‘Wake The Fuck Up’ (a Prodigy track exclusive to this collection) before slamming headlong into the QOTSA ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ and PE’s ‘Welcome To The Terrordrome’ it’s immediately obvious Liam Howlett ain’t home to laid back chill out sessions back at his pad. Got the plot? Now lose it as you factor in Dolly Parton rubbing up against P.I.L or the Jam’s ‘In The City’ setting up ELO’s ‘Living Thing’. In fact any collection where the M section includes Max Romeo, Meat Beat Manifesto and Method Man is a collection worth investigating. As Howlett says, ‘diversity is the key’.


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The Prodigy
Their Law – The Singles (XL)

Iggy PopHaving lobbed the baby (that would be Keith Flint) out with the bath-water after the sessions constructed around the lacklustre 'Baby's Got a Temper' proved unsatisfactory and then received less than rave reviews for the sessions which comprised, the actually pretty good, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned it seems Liam Howlett (or his record company?), felt the need to remind us all of the constant reinvention the Prodigy has undergone over the years by lobbing out a singles collection tracing their creative arc from acid rave nutters via old skool hip-hop, electro and break beats to bug eyed punk rockers. Write ‘em off at your peril.


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Pearls & Brass
The Indian Towers (Drag City)

Pearls & BrassDo you ever find yourself bemoaning the lack of a genuinely heavy rock’n’blues driven power trio? Do you spend way too much time with your old Mountain, Budgie and Groundhogs albums? Was the last album you purchased Cream’s Royal Albert Hall Live reformation show? Then you pal, are an old fogey. You are also in luck as this wonderful heavyweight blunderbuss of an album, which sounds like it’s been exhumed straight out of the late ‘60s, is just what you need to update your collection without ever having to get your head around any of that new-fangled noise (even if the band are pesky youngsters).


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Iggy Pop
A Million In Prizes - The Anthology (Virgin)

Iggy PopThe next time someone tells you a life of drink, drugs and debauchery will leave you looking like Shaun Ryder aim ‘em in the direction of James ‘Iggy Pop’ Osterberg. Look at that cover image! (left) two years short of sixty and he looks better than most people half his age, and then there’s the music. From the year zero, punk holy grail of No Fun or I Wanna Be Your Dog (’69), via his own blanker than blank generation efforts like The Passenger (’77) or I’m Bored (’79), his seedy, back-street ramalama may have negotiated several changes of producer over the years (most notably David Bowie), but he’s never been anything other than his own man


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Robert Plant
Mighty Rearranger (Sanctuary)

Robert PlantYet another legacy artist snapped up by the increasingly prolific Sanctuary, and once again it seems the parent companies obvious enthusiasm for their rapidly increasing roster has rubbed off as this is without doubt the best thing ‘Percy’ has released in an age. Zep fans will find much to clutch lovingly to their collective bosom here, but unlike the vast majority of his peers Plant has always had an ear cocked to new and diverting sounds as electronic and Middle Eastern vibes abound, woven into the fabric of huge lurching riffs, mammoth drums and that soaring voice. Mighty Rearranger indeed.


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Pajo
Pajo (Domino)

PajoYou may already be aware of David Pajo’s work under a series of guises whether as a former member of Slint, Tortoise and, very briefly, Zwan, or as head honcho of Ariel M, Papa M or indeed just plain M. This time around, having decided to record straight to laptop, he then promptly considered scrapping the whole project, which would have been a horrible mistake as this simple spare approach positively glows with immediacy. The songs are pushed forward to stand or fall on their own merits, the solitary late night atmospherics drawing the listener into Pajo’s occasionally inviting, often uncomfortable but never less than fascinating world


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Jean-Luc Ponty
Electric Connection/King Kong (Gott Discs)

Jean-Luc PontyOne of several fine twofers released by Gott Discs recently, this one featuring jazz violin genius Jean-Luc Ponty, the first album being the most straightforward in approach, Ponty sounding not unlike Stefan Grappelli in big band mode. King Kong however, recorded in collaboration with Frank Zappa, is something else again, in particular on the frankly astonishing Music For Electric Violin And Low Budget Orchestra where classical strings judder into gorgeous melodies before tumbling headlong down stairs marked avante garde jazz. In fact, with Ponty’s help, this is quite possibly the best instrumental album Frank Zappa never made.


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Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley (RCA)

ElvisRe-released to coincide with yet another anniversary of some kind Elvis’s first (released alongside his second and third, all in re-mastered and expanded formats) album still sounds remarkable – although certainly not as remarkable as it must have sounded when it first appeared. This is the Presley responsible for kick-starting a whole generation, a Presley that would subsequently sell many, many millions of records and a Presley that inspired thousands of, some might argue far more important, artists. It is also a Presley a thousand miles removed from the huge great sweating fraud that traded on the name in later years.


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