GLITTERBOX Scared Of All The World (Radar)

Another second single from an unknown (to me) guitar quartet, "Scared Of All The World" is a terrific, tune-filled adrenaline rush that swings from power pop guitar hysteria to moments of tinkly piano gorgeousness. The immediate influence that springs to mind is the Manic Street Preachers (this and their forthcoming debut album "Tied And Tangled" were recorded with Manics producer Dave Eringa), but a Manic Street Preachers not hung up on heavy politicking, who fashion slyly tangential lyrics and know the dictionary of Great Pop Moments by heart (they end this track with a cheeky replica of the crashing piano chord that closes "A Day In The Life"). This is one of those rare records that leaves you wanting to hear more, in fact I’ve just played it twice whilst bashing out this review and it just gets better and better. Glitterbox deserve much fame, acclaim and fortune during 1998 - they’re already signed to Atlantic in the US - and in a world gone right songs like "Scared Of All The World" would ensure they got it.

GLITTERBOX Houdini (Radar)

Glitterbox’s third single is a mellower but almost as fantastic a slice of edge-of-insanity mayhem as their last, the incredible "Scared Of All The World". The trademark Leslie guitars (at least that’s what they sound like) and tinkly pianos are present and correct, and they’ve clearly been rummaging in their attic of great pop moments ‘cos the chorus reminds me not a little of Brian Wilson’s "Love And Mercy". Of the other three tracks "Still Breathing" is equally thrilling, an adrenaline rush that could be the Pixies playing "Pictures Of Lily", "Illuminate You" is more reflective and less immediate because of it, while only "Promises" actually lives down to its lowly status in life as b-side fodder.

"Houdini" is further proof that Glitterbox are one of the best new bands in Britain (if not the best), and renders the release of their debut album, "Tied And Tangled", (out by the time you read this, hopefully) an eagerly anticipated event around these parts. Whilst the inkies are busy hounding out and hyping up every last band of pub rock student chancers in the land, Glitterbox are one of very few groups actually making music that sounds like it has ambition, songs that are lying legless in the gutter but gazing at the stars.

GLITTERBOX Tied & Tangled (Radar)

Finally unleashed upon a disinterested (myself excluded) public, Glitterbox’s debut album follows the storming singles "Scared Of All The World" and "Houdini", and is, I’m sorry to say, something of a disappointment.

A bit of perspective first: Glitterbox were never going to be the new saviours of rock ‘n’ roll; at best they’re second rate late-period Manics copyists with a stroppy live reputation. But compared to much of the vocals/guitars/drums/bass dross that comes my way their "Scared Of All The World" single stood out like a diamond in a sea of something not-very-diamond-like indeed: at least two gigantic tunes, edgy lyrics and a cheeky Beatles steal, it became practically welded into my Discman. When they followed it up with the mellower but just as interesting "Houdini", it seemed as if Glitterbox were headed for Very Big Things Indeed.

So that’s why "Tied & Tangled" is such a disappointment to me. If Glitterbox were my (or your) local band knocking around the pub/club circuit, and fashioned an album as inventive, diverse, ambitious and for real as this, they’d be legends in their own lunchtime. But the crux of the problem is that Glitterbox ain’t my local band - they’re signed to Atlantic in the States fergawdsake, which might explain the widescreen sheen that sometime Manics producer Dave Eringa attempts to bring to songs which are, to put it bluntly, more like Handycam standard. (Whilst moaning about the production, I’d like to point out that "Tied & Tangled" is one of the worst engineered albums I’ve heard in an age, toppling over into unintentional distortion when the going gets loud...but then again, it is a CD.) Even the singles I adored so much have had their power sapped to a degree: "Houdini" is too quiet a tune to open a debut album with, and "Scared Of All The World" which follows appears in a mildly different version that diminishes its attack.

The other nine tracks are best summed up as having undistinguished tunes and clumsy lyrics, buoyed up by the odd clever effect such as the mumbled anecdote in the background of "I Can Wait". And what’s this obsession singer Jonny Green seems to have with wings? Track 1: "I’ll imagine I’ll grow wings", track 2: "There’s wings beneath my shirt", track 4: "Take a hacksaw to my wings". Best of the new songs is the closing "Tonight To Hell", a threatening psychological nightmare waltz that ends with the lines "I’m a worm/Watch me burn"...low self esteem, anyone?

Some more perspective: "Tied & Tangled" might be a major disappointment, but even at its worst its a thousand times more interesting to me than anything the likes of Symposium will ever fashion. If they get to make a second, hopefully less corporate album, Glitterbox may yet live up to the promise suggested by those early singles.