Pop CD releases

In this week's pop: Busta Rhymes is back, the Bees live up to the buzz, and Jaguar shows her teeth

Busta Rhymes Genesis
(J) ***

In 1999, Busta Rhymes was rap's loudest millennial doomsayer, confidently predicting apocalypse on his album Extinction Level Event. But, as any Jehova's Witness will tell you, you can't trust those pesky horsemen - the only thing consumed by darkness in 2000 was Rhymes's career. His follow-up, Anarchy, and a Best Of compilation both flopped. Such hiccups have not dented Rhymes's confidence: anyone who compares their fiftth album to the creation of the universe is hardly nursing a bruised ego. Meanwhile, no effort has been spared to make Genesis a hit. Production comes from Dr Dre and the Neptunes; Kelis, P Diddy and Mary J Blige guest. Sometimes it pays off - Blige is fantastic on There's Only One, the Neptunes-helmed What It Is is another highlight - but often Rhymes's bulldozing delivery makes a musically varied album sound distinctly monotonal. (AP)

Gomez In Our Gun
(Hut) ***

It has been two years since Gomez released Liquid Skin, a bigger, bolder take on the blues that infused their debut Bring It On back in 1998. They have often been accused of being old souls in gawky bodies, but with In Our Gun there's a new maturity. The drug references remain, but the carefree attitude has been replaced by a growing dissatisfaction. Ruff Stuff is a fantastic pledge to get clean, an acoustic-guitar rhythm keeping things simple as the desperate refrain, "I've given up fags and drugs now baby", attempts to win back the girl. Keyboard gasps and playful bleeps appear and dissolve everywhere, and Shot Shot suffers from too much going on, the breathless delivery adding urgency but little else. By contrast, the twinkling simplicity of the lullaby 1000 Times is lovely, and Miles End, a tale of a washed-up superstud, "a Jacuzzi baronet with soap suds in his eyes", is picture perfect. The experimentation obscures the fragile moments that Gomez do so well. (BC)

The Bees Sunshine Hit Me
(We Love You) ****

The Bees aren't a band to rush into anything. Although a buzz surrounded them last year, the Isle of Wight band have managed to avoid the if-it-moves-pounce-on-it mentality of the British music industry. Developing at their own pace has meant the Bees have been able to craft their own sounds. It is a rare band that bears the influence of reggae, jazz- funk, doo-wop, Smile-era Beach Boys, slap bass, horns, Hammond organs and Harry Belafonte, but this is that outfit. Sunshine Hit Me is a glorious, meandering stroll across a sun-soaked island - you can almost hear the creaks of the hammocks and smell the beach fires. Sweet Like a Champion hints at a darker underbelly, while Tia's waves of pianos roll as imposingly as the sea. Best of all, Sky Holds the Sun conjures up the lounge magnificence of Bacharach and David. This is one of 2002's essential debuts. (DS)

Jaguar Wright Denials, Delusions and Decisions
(MCA) ****

Even the sleevenotes of this debut by one of neo-soul's most sparkling hopes are unique. Rather than drenching her acquaintances in praise, Philadelphia girl Jaguar Wright is aggressively negative (to her brother she writes: "I hope you rot to your nasty little core"). Musically, Wright nimbly spans the gap between Millie Jackson's raucous R&B and Anita Baker's elegant jazz. Apart from the mandatory dabble in Prince-esque smut-funk (I Can't Wait - on the contrary, you can), there is no filler here, just raw, deeply felt love songs. The deceptively casual The What Ifs starts things as they mean to go on, with the technique of a jazz diva and the quiet pain of someone decades Wright's senior. She maintains the balance through Stay, which gives Mary J Blige a run for her bluesy money, right up to the nine-minute penultimate track, Self Love, a possibly improvised motivational number that lacks the usual preachiness of such things. Fittingly for a record by a woman named Jaguar, this one's bite is every bit as bad as its bark. (CS)

Ian Dury and the Blockheads Ten More Turnips from the Tip
(Ronnie Harris) ***

When he died in March 2000, Ian Dury had just embarked upon the recording of what he knew would be his final album. Ten More Turnips comprises the three new songs Dury had recorded vocals for (the whiplash wordplay of Dance Little Rude Boy gleefully encapsulates Dury's winking sentimentality) and a clutch of outtakes. Also, there are two sets of lyrics that Dury had not recorded: Blockhead Chaz Jankel sounds uneasy on I Could Lie, but Robbie Williams wraps himself around the gorgeous acoustic love song, You're the Why, with seemingly genuine reverence. The 10 tracks hang together surprisingly well, but, as was the way of all Dury's albums post-New Boots and Panties, these turnips are more curate's egg. However, Ballad of the Sulphate Strangler, unfathomably omitted from 1999's Mr Lovepants, is Dury at his most lambent, spinning a yarn around his late, enormous bodyguard Pete Rush ("he had a double set of documents in the names of other men"), who, fittingly, becomes his charge's last great musical character. (JA)


Reviews by Alexis Petridis, Betty Clarke, Dave Simpson, Caroline Sullivan and John Aizlewood

The GuardianTramp

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