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Ian Brown 

Golden Greats (Interscope)

The Stone Roses top the list of bands who showed promise but were never able to capitalize on it or surpass expectations. Filled with guitar hooks and catchy lyrics, their '60s-influenced eponymous debut is still the archetype for Britpop bands. Stone Roses singer Ian Brown defined rude long before Oasis was being written up in the British press as the second coming of the Beatles. Ironically, the Roses broke up at about the time that Oasis went on to define the Britpop scene of the '90s.

As for Brown, he has quietly trudged on with a solo career that commenced with 1998's Unfinished Monkey Business and continues with its follow-up, Golden Greats. The diverse style of Golden Greats fits perfectly into the evolving electronic music scene across the Atlantic, but doesn't translate on this side of the pond, where its lack of focus is a glaring weakness. Covering everything from middle-of-the-road rock to acid house, breakbeat and even light Britfunk (maybe that's the next big trend), Golden Greats sounds more like a soundtrack, with contributions from a varied group of artists, than a studio release put out by an individual. The opening track, "Gettin' High," starts with a dreamlike, Middle Eastern melody that features a mildly jarring rock riff and Brown's unemotional vocal style. It's the best track on the album, with a raucous guitar solo slicing and dicing, but disappearing for good by song two.

Brown's pompousness shows no signs of fizzling, as lyrics such as "I could astound you if I wanted/I wouldn't even have to try" ("Gettin' High") suggest he still thinks he's the king of the Britpop scene. Written while he was in jail, "Free My Way" is monotonous and, given that Brown was sentenced to four months in jail for making violent threats against a flight attendant, hardly as edgy as gangsta rap. Lyrically, Brown often switches aimlessly from the sublime to absurd in the song "Love Is Like a Fountain," in which he sings, "I could glide across the ocean, for your love rubs like a lotion." For Golden Greats, Brown throws just about everything against the wall to see what sticks -- and there's nothing golden or great about that method of operation.

More by John Benson

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