Various Artists : Cohesion

There's certainly a lot of trip-hop going on in Manchester these days....

There’s certainly a lot of trip-hop going on in Manchester these days. Of course, this being a charity album for an extremely good cause, it’s probably fairest to ignore this point. Yet while ‘Cohesion’ (compiled to assist the Mines Advisory Group and Manchester Aid To Kosovo, a charity formed by “regulars of the Britannia pub, Urmston”) serves as the rock emissary of a gladdening compassion, it also paints a curious picture of the current state of the north’s most endlessly eulogised scene.

The charity aspect makes it a whole kettle of ethical eels – having to listen to Subaqwa and Buffalo 66 is a small price to pay for making a useful financial contribution. But remember: while you might want the Sirconical remix of Badly Drawn Boy’s ‘Jewel Thief’ or Doves’ ‘Valley’, you will also end up housing tracks by Tom Hingley and Clint Boon, thus proving if you cut one head off the Inspiral Carpets hydra, another 20 will flourish in its place. You might crave the live version of New Order’s ‘Atmosphere’ or an alternative edit of ‘Wrote For Luck’ by the Happy Mondays, but you will have to skip Munki and Sal Volatile. The choice is between you and your conscience.

Ignore the title and ‘Cohesion’ can happily be divided into three sections: canonical bands with classic songs; the sound of dance ’95; and, happily, some truly excellent new voices escaping the curses and blessings of their heritage. There’s the nauseous post-rock tilt of Fingathing’s ‘Drunken Master’; I Am Kloot’s ‘Twist’, the grubby loose change from [I]The Threepenny Opera[/I] and the work of men with a buttered grip on sanity; the maudlin accomplishment of Elbow and ‘Scattered Black And Whites’. Meanwhile, Alpinestars and Mint Royale (pitching in with ‘From Rusholme With Love’) prove Manctronica 2001 need not mean catatonic trance. There’s another chance to hear Puressence’s ‘Standing In Your Shadow’ and wonder why Coldplay never happened to them. Maybe it’s because their palette wasn’t so much yellow as (in the city’s true style) a deep and doomy black.

Which makes the fact that this album is such a positive, sunny-natured effort all the more cheering. On a karmic scale at least, Manchester now has slightly less to answer for.

Victoria Segal