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Rock - Released February 1, 2019 | EastWest U.K.

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Following an over ten-year hiatus, Britain's Busted reunited and delivered 2016's Night Driver, an album that found the former punky boy band having matured into purveyors of slick, '80s-style dance-pop. It was an effective transition, evoking the electro-groove of Daft Punk with a heavy dose of Justin Timberlake's R&B swagger. That said, it didn't really sound much like the band that first grabbed their MTV/TRL fan base in the early 2000s with songs about having a crush on your teacher, kissing an airline stewardess, or being devoted to Britney Spears. It was almost as if they wanted to ignore their slightly embarrassing, frosted-tipped-and-flat-ironed past and prove just how much they'd grown up. With 2019's Half Way There, Busted bandmates Charlie Simpson, James Bourne, and Matt Willis eschew any such claims of probity, and wholly embrace the laddish sound of their early albums with songs built on hooky, guitar-driven choruses and an overall feeling of Friday night fun. Amazingly, Half Way There (a reference to the song "Year 3000" off their eponymous 2002 debut) works as both a wry send-up of the band's roots and an earnest dip into millennial nostalgia. Many of the songs explicitly underline these sentiments, beginning with the reference-packed "Nineties," in which they sing yearningly and not without some cheek about Hypercolor shirts, dubiously rhyme "Smashing Pumpkins" with "Macaulay Culkin," and admit to having at one time prayed to someday meet Kelly Kapowski -- Tiffani Amber Thiessen's character on Saved by the Bell. It's that kind of self-aware minutiae and attention to detail (check out the song's '90s-inspired drumbeat and keyboard intro) that makes Busted's trip down memory lane so unexpectedly rewarding. Similarly, the brightly attenuated "Reunion," with its blink-182-at-Ibiza production, finds the band waxing nostalgic about high school friends, all the while subtly evoking their own return to the stage. There's even a song here that's actually called "Nostalgia," which is ostensibly about a failing relationship, but nonetheless backs up the notion that Half Way There is a self-conscious exercise in pop sentimentality. Thankfully, this concept requires no heavy lifting, and cuts like the driving "Shipwrecked in Atlantis," the heartfelt "Radio," and the '70s-power-pop-esque "Race to Mars" bring to mind exactly the carefree '90s and early-2000s vibe for which Busted are aiming. As they sing on "It Happens": "Flashback to when the guy from NME said nobody would care/And now we're back on the road/The album's almost good to go/And if you're ever feeling low/You know, you know/That it happens." © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 1, 2019 | EastWest U.K.

Following an over ten-year hiatus, Britain's Busted reunited and delivered 2016's Night Driver, an album that found the former punky boy band having matured into purveyors of slick, '80s-style dance-pop. It was an effective transition, evoking the electro-groove of Daft Punk with a heavy dose of Justin Timberlake's R&B swagger. That said, it didn't really sound much like the band that first grabbed their MTV/TRL fan base in the early 2000s with songs about having a crush on your teacher, kissing an airline stewardess, or being devoted to Britney Spears. It was almost as if they wanted to ignore their slightly embarrassing, frosted-tipped-and-flat-ironed past and prove just how much they'd grown up. With 2019's Half Way There, Busted bandmates Charlie Simpson, James Bourne, and Matt Willis eschew any such claims of probity, and wholly embrace the laddish sound of their early albums with songs built on hooky, guitar-driven choruses and an overall feeling of Friday night fun. Amazingly, Half Way There (a reference to the song "Year 3000" off their eponymous 2002 debut) works as both a wry send-up of the band's roots and an earnest dip into millennial nostalgia. Many of the songs explicitly underline these sentiments, beginning with the reference-packed "Nineties," in which they sing yearningly and not without some cheek about Hypercolor shirts, dubiously rhyme "Smashing Pumpkins" with "Macaulay Culkin," and admit to having at one time prayed to someday meet Kelly Kapowski -- Tiffani Amber Thiessen's character on Saved by the Bell. It's that kind of self-aware minutiae and attention to detail (check out the song's '90s-inspired drumbeat and keyboard intro) that makes Busted's trip down memory lane so unexpectedly rewarding. Similarly, the brightly attenuated "Reunion," with its blink-182-at-Ibiza production, finds the band waxing nostalgic about high school friends, all the while subtly evoking their own return to the stage. There's even a song here that's actually called "Nostalgia," which is ostensibly about a failing relationship, but nonetheless backs up the notion that Half Way There is a self-conscious exercise in pop sentimentality. Thankfully, this concept requires no heavy lifting, and cuts like the driving "Shipwrecked in Atlantis," the heartfelt "Radio," and the '70s-power-pop-esque "Race to Mars" bring to mind exactly the carefree '90s and early-2000s vibe for which Busted are aiming. As they sing on "It Happens": "Flashback to when the guy from NME said nobody would care/And now we're back on the road/The album's almost good to go/And if you're ever feeling low/You know, you know/That it happens." © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 9, 2019 | EastWest U.K.

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Rock - Released December 14, 2018 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released June 8, 2018 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released June 8, 2018 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released May 29, 2015 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released May 29, 2015 | EastWest U.K.

Mick Hucknall and Simply Red are rightly inseparable in the minds of most listeners -- he is the frontman and the star, the one constant in the band's history -- but the singer's short-lived solo career of 2008-2012 proved there was a difference between Hucknall and the group. Big Love, the album the reunited Simply Red recorded to celebrate their 30th anniversary in 2015, isn't as in thrall to the past as the vocalist's two albums of covers, nor is it as comfortable with rock as 2007's Stay. It is, as the title suggests, a record that is romantic to its very core, an album whose bones are as exquisitely smooth as its surfaces (the loungey tongue-in-cheek saloon song "The Old Man and the Beer" is the exception that proves the rule). Even when the tempo picks up a notch on Big Love -- and it doesn't happen all that often -- the speedier songs come in the form of a slow-burning disco tune, an aesthetic that isn't all that far removed from Simply Red's enduring allegiance to the smoothest sounds of the '70s, specifically Philly soul. At times, the overall veneer is a shade too clean, suggesting nothing so much as cocktail hour at a classy conference, but the fact that Hucknall and Simply Red choose to celebrate the softer, soulful sounds of the '70s by doubling down on the smoothness does separate them from the legions of neo-soul divas in the new millennium. Let those singers scale operatic towers: this lot prefers to take it easy and is charming for it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 7, 2013 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released February 16, 2010 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released August 25, 2008 | EastWest U.K.

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 1, 2008 | EastWest U.K.

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Rock - Released February 3, 2004 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released July 1, 2002 | EastWest U.K.

Fragments of Freedom was released in 2000 and not received very well. If critics and fans would have been able to gaze into a crystal ball a couple of years in the future, they would have understood. With the benefit of hindsight, consider Fragments the prototypically disjointed transitional record that saw Morcheeba shifting focus from trip-hop to a more well-rounded mix, as Charango completes the journey that may have been bumpy, but with a sweet destination. Once again, guests are brought in to augment the band's sound; Lambchop's Kurt Wagner returns to help the electronica act with meditative lead vocals that fit into the film noir soundscape that is "What New York Couples Fight About," and Pace Won adds his rhymes to two tunes -- the title track, which harks back to the trip-hopping salad days of the group and sees the rapper taking the lead, and "Get Along," where he makes a more subtle contribution on a dreamy cut that sounds like something from the '70s if they had more modern equipment back then. However, the best is "Women Lose Weight," which sees Slick Rick sound completely old-school with Morcheeba's pop-soul groove letting his typically clever rhymes and dark comedy dominate the song. Though the appearances of outside musicians is a positive move overall, the remainder of the disc as done by the three members of the group stands up on its own; Skye Edwards' vocals are sultry as she makes all diva-like on lead track "Slow Down," the string-drenched melancholic "Otherwise," and the lazy, tropical "Sao Paulo," and overall her performance makes Charango the band's best record in some time, and for anyone not a purist, it's possibly Morcheeba's best ever. © Brian O'Neill /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 29, 2001 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released October 29, 2001 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released October 15, 2001 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released December 1, 2000 | EastWest U.K.

Members of the So Solid Crew (of "21 Seconds" fame), Oxide & Neutrino's Execute is the first solo release from members of the popular U.K. crew and Oxide & Neutrino's first full-length effort. As they say on the BBC, it's all 'bout the coppers, cars and hard stares (read: this is the British take on gangster). Almost in spite of all its hype as an anticipated release, Execute is a fair, but not strong, album. Oxide's production draws on the usual suspects: 2-step, garage, and American hip-hop. For his part, Neutrino fulfills his duties well enough, delivering clever lines on cracking heads and cracking safes, as well as tossing some dancehall toasts. Without doubt, taking a bullet in the leg outside a London club before the album's release helped validate his roughneck persona -- but it didn't improved his skills (read: ain't no Cannibal Ox). The first single, however, "Up Middle Finger," is a block-rocking track, complete with live crowd call and response. Why they chose to release second the being-a-rap-star-is-so-hard "Only Wanna Know U Cos Your Famous," which is a subpar explication of this thematic mainstay of the not quite famous, will forever remain a mystery. The remainder of the album is at times moving, but probably would sound better on the radio (read: lack of range). After their single "Bounce 4 Da Reload," with its catchy "could everyone stop getting shot" break, put them over in the U.K., Oxide & Neutrino hoped to break the American market riding the tails of the Tomb Raider soundtrack. Unfortunately, it didn't come off. This album, though charting five Top 20 singles in England, didn't do the trick either. © Brian Whitener /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 25, 2000 | EastWest U.K.

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Pop - Released July 10, 2000 | EastWest U.K.

Even though Morcheeba were one of the later, straggling entries in the trip-hop phenomenon, their previous albums succeed because of the interplay between Skye Edwards' sweetly sensual, airy voice and the band's correspondingly mellow grooves. Unfortunately, their third album, Fragments of Freedom, scraps most of their signature sound for half-baked experiments in R&B, acid jazz, and hip-hop. Though it's certainly understandable that the group would want to move away from the dead-and-buried trip-hop sound that defined them originally, it seems that Morcheeba are just using bands like Brand New Heavies and M People as sonic templates instead of Tricky and Portishead. The bland, overly slick production softens any impact that soulless soul songs such as "Rome Wasn't Built in a Day" and "Love Is Rare" might have had, and while Edwards may be blessed with a soulful voice, she's unconvincing belting out pseudo-sultry lyrics like "Is that a rocket in your pocket?" The group's misguided forays into hip-hop are even worse; Mr. Complex's guest rap on "Love Sweet Love" sounds like it was surgically grafted from another track entirely, and while Bahamadia's appearance on "Good Girl Down"'s celebration of sisterhood makes more sense, it still sounds out of place with Edwards' essentially refined, delicate style. Not every song on Fragments of Freedom is ill conceived, however; the opening track, "World Looking In," ranks among their finest, and the steel drum instrumental "A Well Deserved Break" is pretty and refreshing. Despite its annoying, overpowering synth bass, "Shallow End" boasts a lilting, seductive melody that showcases Edwards' voice instead of fighting against it, and the title track is a pleasant enough piece of trip-hop pastiche. But for the most part, Fragments of Freedom's contrived attempts to bring the funk to Morcheeba's sound are as fake and painful as a forced smile. © Heather Phares /TiVo