The Best Of The Rest - Album Reviews (January 2005)

GWEN STEFANI - Love Music Angel Baby
Last month we featured Gwen Stefani in the Top 10 and to be honest we really didn't heap enough praise on the genius of "Love Angel Music Baby". We still remember Stefani from her storming performance with former band No Doubt at Move Festival with the likes of "Don't Speak" and "I'm Just A Girl", but when she hooked up with Eve for "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" it was clear she was destined for greater things. On the Dr Dre produced "Rich Girl" she hooks up with Eve once more for the future smash single of 2005. From the opener "What You Waiting For?" with it's pumping electroclash meets Kate Bush anthem to "The Real Thing", which features New Order and is the best thing the Manchester band have done for year, Stefani hops from genre to genre and never once seems contrived. Between this album and JC Chasez there's proof out there that pop music can push the boundaries rather than pushing out some X Factor karaoke piffle. - 9/10

It's probably just us but we kinda preferred Brian McFadden when he was fat and his name was spelt with a Y instead of an I. Then again it had its downside as every time we saw Bryan we had to witness four fools who wanted us to allow them to be Frank, Brian however wanted to be the Irish version of Robbie so he left Westlife to spend time with his wife and kid (the former of which was dumped pronto) and he's returned with an album which matches the talent of the "Irish Son" single rather than wallows in the depths of "Real To Me". Co-written with Robbies ex, Guy Chambers is a genius move as there are ballads on here that nearly match the height of "Angels". On one hand you have "Demons" which takes the middle ground between the Beatles and Mercury Rev and on the other hand the uptempo "Lose Lose Situation" that veers far too close to the likes of Del Amitri and The Thrills for its own good. It's "Almost Here", the ballad with the is she / isn't she girlfriend Delta Goodrem, that will make sure both Brian's and Delta's albums re-enter and stay in the top 10 for the next 3 months. When you're faced with the choice of Brian McFadden or Westlife, Brian wins every time and as long as he does "Bop Bop Baby" on his debut solo tour that's the only reminder we need of his former boyband past.  - 7/10

THE MYSTIC UNDERGROUND - The Nameless And Faceless
Designer Magazine discovered The Mystic Underground a couple of years ago and "The Nameless and Faceless" is their long awaited debut album on Stereosonic Recordings. It makes sense that the band release in the same week as Erasure make their comeback as there are undeniably similarities between the two acts, ableit with The Mystic Underground making forays into more cutting edge electro rather than straightforward synth pop. The standout moment surprisingly is where they slow it down for the torch songs "I Remember Everything", "Seven Years Time" and "How I Feel Inside (The Apology Song)". Elsewhere the instrumental "I-1" sounds like New Order trying to write an Ibiza anthem with a casio keyboard and 808, "People Like Me" is an outsider anthem you can dance to. And that's what The Mystic Underground do best - dance music for outsiders who can't dance!!!  - 7/10

If Head Automatica could have stretched out "Beating Heart Baby" to a full length album of the same standard they'd have been in line for one of the best rock albums of the year. "Decadence" is an album which to it's detriment is produced in the main by Dan The Automator. On the three tracks not produced by the Gorillaz henchman, the aforementioned "Beating Heart Baby" stands out as one of two Howard Benson produced tracks. - 5/10

Alex McCann

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