Herald ratings:
* * * * The Reduction Agents
* * * Lawrence Arabia

We discovered James Milne was smarter than your average local pop toiler when he wrote entertaining on-tour columns for TimeOut while playing bass for the Brunettes in America. But now Milne - operating under the moniker Lawrence Arabia, for reasons best known to himself - is following his own muse. Well, muses.

He has two albums on the go. The lesser of the two is Lawrence Arabia, a slightly demented, frequently indulgent, but occasionally amusing solo album which mixes bedroom guitar meanderings, wobbly minimalist electropop and frequently hilarious rhyming couplets.

Its eccentric charms might not sustain throughout the dozen tracks but Half the Right Size and the glam-rock throb of Business Planning shows this is more than a B-sides collection to his other offering.

That's the cracking album by Milne's band, The Reduction Agents, a more full-bodied affair that displays his old-fashioned melodic and arrangement gifts.

It's an infectious set, with Beatlesque janglers (The Pool, Cold Glass Tube, Mississippi Moonshine Girls), gangly garage pop (Urban Yard, 80's Celebration, Our Jukebox Run Is Over), tongue-in-cheek country (Last Night's Love) and one instant anthem that sounds like a nod to the Brunettes (Waiting For Your Love).

With one likable oddball album and one fab one, Mr Arabia is off to a promising start.

Labels: Both Honorary Bedouin/ Lil Chief