FINLAY QUAYE Maverick A Strike (Epic)

The debut album by Tricky’s Uncle Finlay is, as many of you will have heard by now, a frothy blend of light reggae and a shinier, happier branch of the Quaye family patois than we’ve been exposed to so far - the title, and charming lines such as "Let me raise it up one time" from "Even After All" suggest that all is not linguistically normal in these territories. Musically he blends the image of Marley projected by the "Legend" compilation with a little Ben Harper (mainly in the high vocal style) and a shade of his nephew in the album’s more off-kilter moments. Which is all sweet and dandy, and which will inevitably sound fantastic spilling out of air-conditioned Megabores at the peak of a greenhouse effect summer, but listened to at home in the depths of a bleak midwinter "Maverick A Strike" sounds like a sweet but brittle confection (a meringue, perhaps?) of style over substance. There are many nice moments (all three singles, for example, and the jaunty pseudo-accordion driven "Your Love Gets Sweeter", which has a tune that sounds like a "Graceland" offcut), a few embarrassing ones ("I know a man called Sylvester/He have to wear a bulletproof vest-ah", he scats not entirely convincingly during "Ride On And Turn The People On") but overall nothing that sinks deep into the subconscious: it’s nice, but ultimately a lot more disposable than it thinks it is, or than by rights it should be.

FINLAY QUAYE Vanguard (Epic)

Finlay Quaye's second album appears destined to be condemned to the same fate as Terence Trent D'Arby's similarly success-cheating sophomore release, long cited as a cautionary tale for any artist considering giving the people something other than what they want. And what they seem to want from Finlay is his trademark burbly lite-reggae pop, the kind of music that, for me, made his debut "Maverick A Strike" rather too much of an insubstantial thing. What reggae still remains on "Vanguard" is predominately of a darker, dubbier hue, surrounded here by stream-of-consciousness freeform lyrical association ("Broadcast", for example, degenerates into a lecture about the different kinds of beans Finlay enjoys), straightahead guitar rock (the single "Spiritualized", for example, inspired by his burgeoning friendship with that band's Jason Spaceman) and tales from the dark side of his new-found celebrity ("Chad Valley" alludes, briefly, to his time spent in rehab). Of course, the mere fact that a record fails to conform to some expected template doesn’t necessarily make it great, but there are sufficient strands waiting to be untangled on "Vanguard" to suggest that it's a greater musical triumph than we could have dared expect, even if it's not a commercial one.