Beautiful South Gaze

During their 15-year career, not much has changed for the Beautiful South. They found their niche almost instantly, and have continued to graze there quite happily since then. But these days, their pedestrian pop songs with supposedly witty lyrics are sounding dated and particularly weak. Since his days in the Housemartins, Paul Heaton had a real gift for writing chirpy songs that were easy on the ear and they inevitably climbed up towards the top of the UK Top 40. But the Beautiful South’s last couple of albums simply haven’t been up to par and Heaton even hinted that he was willing to call it quits with the release of his first solo album. Yet they are back for one more album, sounding pretty much like they always have, and that really isn’t a good thing. Even with another new female singer in the band, Alison Wheeler, there is no real difference in their sound. Some of the things that Heaton thinks passes for wit in his lyrics verge on embarrassing, especially on his pro-gay song "101% Man,” while fortunately others are simply muddled and not very clever. This is a band that is quite clearly past its "best before” date, and it is a real pity that they have to go out on such a low note. (Mercury)