This sextet from the questionably beautiful town of Hull in northeast England appeared last spring with the excellent debut disc Welcome to the Beautiful South. With light pop melodies and satiric, biting lyrics, that album's songs worked on two levels.
Now, less than a year later, it's sophomore slump season in Hull. Choke contains some good music, but neither the lyrics nor the tunes are strong this time. The accompaniment can get so square it sounds like Burt Bacharach, while the songs address tough issues—wife beating, political revolution—but only rarely with insight.
The band still holds the potential to create great pop music, as a few new songs show. "Tonight I Fancy Myself" makes a funny argument that it's easier to stay home alone and amuse yourself than to bother with the hassles of a romance. As always, vocalists Paul Heaton, Dave Hemmingway and Briana Corrigan deliver their songs with lots of personality and variety. There's still plenty of talent here.
Maybe it's a blessing that the Beautiful South rushed out a second album quickly. Now the band can turn its talents to a post-slump comeback. (Electra)