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Fortunately, Ryder has grown a bit since the days of yore. His new five-piece band bolts out of the gate with a harmonica-happy blues vamp ("The Reverend Black Grape"), a decent dub raveup ("In the Name of the Father"), and a respectable R&B track sprinkled with delightful snatches of saxophone ("Tramazi Parti"). The jagged guitar work of Paul Wagstaff and the layered beats of percussionist Ged Lynch are most welcome, though the rapper enlisted by Ryder, Kermit Leveridge, does little beyond adding some ethnic balance to the troupe. Ryder's own contributions are likewise forgettable. He seems more eager to chant than sing, and his lyrics are often laughably self-indulgent.

Predictably, Black Grape pretty much runs out of juice by track six, the utterly monotonous "A Big Day in the North." The rest of the way proves that tried-and-true law of British pop: The noisier the mix, the more essentially annoying the songs themselves are.

Lingering fans of the Mondays will enjoy this dance-ready effort. The rest of us would do just as well to dust off our Big Audio Dynamite albums.

By Steven Almond

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