It’s still the usual scrappy mix, mind. Anyway.

Howling BellsInto The Chaos ****

Oz’s finest return, at last. And given that they’ve waited this long, you’d think they might have come up with a video for their new single. But no. At least you can download it for free here, which more than compensates… Fresh from playing Oxford in support of Mercury Rev, this sex-blues outfit have borrowed some of the latter’s bombast and glorious arrangements to kit out this new, sunnier single. Less dark and smouldering than their first album, but it bodes well.

The Killers – Human **

So they don’t want to be Bruce Springsteen any more. The video’s one of those Bon Jovi, in the desert numbers. No; they want to retreat to the ’80s power-disco of their first album, with the fuzzier guitars replaced with extra beats. It has grandiose pretensions and wishes to be described as ‘soaring’. And, erm, it sounds a lot like Keane. The lyrics are as absurd as the amount of echo and reverb on the chorus vocal. The tune’s ok. Limp.

Santogold – Say Aha ****

Yes, this is good, maybe the fourth best but certainly the funkiest song on her album. But, again, we know this because said album’s been out all year. Even this rather charming remix has been around for months.

Duffy – Rain On Your Parade ****

See, the likes of Santogold should pay attention to this. Far more cunning to record a shockingly good new single to front a ‘deluxe’ edition of an already shockingly high-selling album, out conveniently in time for Christmas. A rare example of commercial savvy married to artistic excellence. Not that I like her voice, but the song and production are superb.

The Verve – Rather Be **

Frankly, I always found them boring, and ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ a minute and a half too long. Maybe this is why their comeback fails to excite me. Maybe it’s because this song sounds like a really dull Happy Mondays b-side from the early ’90s. Like early Oasis, they maintain a certain swagger and star factor that saves this from utter mediocrity, but intrinsically there’s nothing worth hearing here.

Pendulum – Showdown ***

Does anyone remember Hot Hot Heat? They wrote absolutely amazing pop songs, tragically marred by the singer’s sub-Green Day voice. Only his hair redeemed him. Anyway, it’s little things like vocal tone and a certain cheapness of effects that stop this from being a universal, uniting hoedown of hard dance madness. You sense they might be wearing shorts whilst recording it.

John BarrowmanWhat About Us? *

Bless the guy. He’s absurdly beautiful, a decent and humorous actor, and he once touched my knee in a naughty way. But he shouldn’t really try and keep up a singing career.

Top Of The Ox: Local Tune of the Week

Jonquil finally seem to be getting somewhere. They’ve even got a tour of Germany lined up and the NME saying nice things. This is a good thing, long overdue, as they purvey ethereal, beautiful, and sometime even rousing English folk in a decidedly modern and attractive fashion. The obvious first tune is Lions – get over to iTunes and grab their music in its proper recorded beauty.

Next week: who knows, or dares to dream?