SHADY World (Beggars Banquet)

"World" is the first muttering from the direction of ex-Mercury Rev mouth David Baker, since being kicked out of that band for allegedly being too weird, Shady being a The The-esque group of his family, friends and various stray Boo Radleys. And I'm quite surprised to report that it's really rather good.

The great thing about Mercury Rev was that they recognised no limits: their two proper albums were huge, sprawling experiments in weirdness somehow crammed into a recognisable verse-chorus-verse structure. Shady play the same game, but move the goalposts a little. Their source material still consists of a junk food diet of low-budget sci-fi movies, but the music has regressed a little, the Rev's huge shiny cathedrals of sound being demolished in favour of something much more ramshackle and improvisational - "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn", rather than "Saucerful Of Secrets" Baker's lyrics have improved as well, even nudging towards what might be a love song in the album's best track, the gorgeous "Tempest"-rewrite "Prosperous". Elsewhere Shady offer 13th Floor Elevatoresque jams ("Real Ease"), Grade-A weirdness ("Rap Soda" and "Are You Okay?"), woozy Spiritualised-isms ("Narcotic Candy", the single) and even a Gene Clark cover ("Life's Greatest Fool").

What could've been a horribly self-indulgent disaster area has in fact turned out to be a likeable, fun album. It doesn't scale the heights of, say, Mercury Rev's unsurpassable "Boces", but, wisely, it doesn't even attempt to try...and the prospect of a David Baker-less Mercury Rev managing the feat is beginning to look more and more improbable.

Mercury Rev