Peter Andre, The Long Road Back
Britons tend to prefer cute animals over, say, asylum seekers. It certainly accounts for the second coming of Peter Andre, the chipmunky Australian chewed up and spat out by the jungle and Jordan, but welcomed into the warm bosom of the UK with sold-out tour dates and a fresh record deal. All the hits - both of them - are on this comeback album, from 'Mysterious Girl' (twice) to the now-infamous 'Insania'; they're accompanied by bloodless Caribbean-tinged ditties like 'You Got Me Thinking' and 'Let's Go Dancin', a reggae-lite cover of Kool and the Gang. Andre will be playing his plinky-plonk supper pop at the Empire Club in Skegness twice this summer - surely a date at the Phoenix Club in Bolton cannot be far behind.
The Datsuns, Outta Sight/Outta Mind
The Antipodean rock uprising hasn't turned out as planned. In theory, the Vines should have been the biggest band in the world by now. Instead, they are disintegrating. Having caused chaos when they first played London, the Datsuns should have been up there too, thanks to the universal new appreciation for squealing axes and long hair. Instead, Jet have pipped both bands to the post. The Datsuns' latest album doesn't redress the situation. Produced by the sacred hand of John Paul Jones, it's good, but not great. The guitars sound so vibrant they could be issued their own passports, but the Datsuns have not made the leap from underground heroes to anthem-builders. 'I Got No Words' deftly combines Led Zeppelin and garage rock and Dolf De Datsun's rueful sulk on 'What I've Lost' fingers all the right bruises. But songs like 'You Can't Find Me' speed up Deep Purple - not ideal.
Faithless, No Roots
It's hard to hate Faithless. While unimaginative, their music has never been loathsome. The charts would be a less interesting place without the hangdog presence of rapper Maxi Jazz. But you have to have a go if provoked sufficiently. The cover of their fourth album depicts a sad child - afflicted, presumably, by a lack of roots. Inside, a near-continuous piece of music mutates into 14 tracks, mixing dated trancey movements and guitar-strewn songs such as the title track, on which Dido warbles. Leeds rapper LSK guests more often, but his dire contributions don't help an already po-faced album. War, poverty, the news, inequality and not having a dad are all bad, Faithless reveal on songs like 'Mass Destruction'. Positivity and love are good. Well, yes. But innovation, subtlety and a lightness of touch are good things too.
Sonic Youth, Sonic Nurse
No one really needs all of Sonic Youth's 19 albums, for they are a band who repeat themselves. But over 23 years, they have finessed their sound to a remarkable degree. Sonic Nurse finds the New York avant-rock perennials in equable mood, with only two angular Kim Gordon songs offering anything like their trademark riled skronk. Instead, the expansive outlook of their previous album, Murray Street , prevails. Although 'The Dripping Dream' is as perky a pop song as Sonic Youth have attempted in some time, its ebbs and flows are even more enticing than its easy melody. The downside of Sonic Nurse 's even mood is that its songs can be indistinguishable and their appeal a little muted for fans of their more immediate outbursts. Thurston Moore's protest song, 'Peace Attack', feels oblique rather than animated - it's no 'Swimsuit Issue' or 'Youth Against Fascism'. But anyone who considers Sonic Youth's masterful guitar dynamics their main draw will find much to swoon over here.
Velvet Revolver, Contraband
Hot on the heels of a long-delayed, unsatisfying Guns'n'Roses greatest hits comes a long-delayed, not quite satisfying album from Velvet Revolver, the supergroup formed by three former Roses and ex-Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland, grunge's most chemically damaged survivor. It's a problematic union: Weiland is not Axl Rose, the casualty everyone wants to hear caterwauling over Slash's guitar. It's the Revolver's basically sound LA rock that suffers from Weiland's rehab lyrics and moose-like belly-aching. 'Superhuman', for one, plays Slash's pealing off against Weiland's lacklustre insights ('cocaine/ alcohol/lady lay/withdrawal' he gurns). Contraband does have its moments, though. It will sound even better, too, when Axl's own long-delayed Chinese Democracy album finally surfaces.