Bad imitation Rolling Stones are still no worse than the real thing


Primal Scream (Sire 45538)


It would be hard to imagine a better critique of the Rolling Stones than Primal Scream. Almost everything on "Give Out But Don't Give Up" sounds second-hand, from the Stones-by-numbers sound of "Struttin' " to the make-believe Memphis soul of "Everybody Needs Somebody," to the glib attempt at country blues on "Big Jet Plane." Yet as brazenly derivative as these tracks are, none are any worse than anything the Stones themselves have cut in recent years. In fact, despite its mannerisms, "(I'm Gonna) Cry Myself Blind" is a better ballad than anything the Stones have cut since "Beast of Burden," while "Rocks" is so grittily propulsive you may find yourself wondering why you should bother with the old Stones when these new ones are so much more fun.



Traffic (Virgin 39490)

If nothing else, the new Traffic album, "Far from Home," should instill a new respect for contemporary recording technology. Even though the band consists only of multi-instrumentalist Steve Winwood and percussionist Jim Capaldi, judicious multi-tracking has made the lineup sound as full as it was when Traffic was a sextet. Even more impressive are the synth patches, which allow Winwood to flesh out "Here Comes a Man" with credibly faked flute fills and provide a synthetic sax solo on "Some Kinda Woman" that's so realistic you'd think Chris Wood was back in the band. If only they'd been able to simulate songs to go along with those clever sounds; apart from "This Train Won't Stop" and the achingly lyrical "Holy Ground," the tracks here rely more on rhythm than melody to make their point.


Brian Eno (Virgin 91102)

When pop conceptualist Brian Eno began making what he called "ambient music," the point of the exercise was to create sounds that would please the listener without attracting attention to themselves. That may seem an idea snatched straight from the realm of elevator music, but "Eno I: Instrumental" suggests differently. This three-CD set may not be a complete survey of his instrumental music, but it's quite representative and surprisingly instructive. Moving from the nubby grace of "Energy Fools the Magician" through the stark beauty of "Warszawa" to the engaging hush of "Thursday Afternoon," it becomes clear that the common thread in this music is an obsession with the kind of aural texture that delights the ear without engaging the linear/rational part of the brain. Wonderfully clever stuff, even if it does take several listenings to actually hear it all.


The London Suede (Nude/Columbia 64382)

More a collection of odds and ends than a new release, The London Suede's new EP, "Stay Together," seems just a trifle at first glance, fleshed out as it is with B-side fodder and two versions of the title tune. Yet even within these limits, TLS shows itself to be a band of unusual flair and melodic imagination. Apart from the surging, hypnotic title tune, "Dolly" is the most obvious rock hit here, touching on the strengths of glitter-era Bowie without being too obviously indebted. But the most satisfying songs are melancholy ballads like "High Rising," which bring out both the power of Brett Anderson's voice and the beauty of Bernard Butler's melodies.