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Record Review


Never trust an album that begins with the words "Take a ride on the wild side." Two-step garage, the post-house style that's swept London for three years running and is currently gunning for an American market share, is "wild" by definition, partly because of all those cannonading bass lines but mostly because it's got underground cred galore. And plenty of CDs in the import racks will help convince you that two-step is a breath of fresh air in the dance scene.

But unless you're convinced that class equals classic, the debut of MJ Cole isn't one of them. Sincere is an unnecessarily fussy album -- its liveliest moment, the London pirate radio tribute, "MJ FM Interlude," also is the only one that doesn't sound overly concerned about maintaining its decorum. On "Introduction" and the title track, Cole's light piano figures double back on themselves just shy of turning to treacle.

But mostly, his supper-club musicality all but waves the cork under your nose for approval. On "I See," vocalist Elisabeth Troy chants, "There's no life without love," in a deeply serious moan that sounds more like she's scolding the listener. Which makes sense, given that lyrics like "Baby be real with me" and "You've got to get an attitude" make the album seem like a self-help seminar set to music that sounds more enamored with the idea of hedonism than the thing itself.

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