Wanted: miserable bastard. Must be educated and able to hold a tune. The rock mainstream has been short of its quota of sophisticated gloom ever since Leonard Cohen cheered up, circa 1988. But now here comes a contender: John Bramwell, singer and songwriter for the Manchester trio I Am Kloot. Dry, droll and already 48, he writes late-night ballads with lethal opening couplets. "Do you fancy a drink?" he memorably inquired on Kloot’s last album, "Sky At Night". "I know a place called the brink." This time, the first song, "Bullets", begins: "I kept the note/You never wrote." "Sky At Night" crept into the British top 30, reached the Mercury shortlist and won best rock-and-pop album in the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. The follow-up, "Let It All In", brings more of the same sparkling glumness, sympathetically produced by Guy Garvey and Craig Potter of Elbow. Meanwhile, modest success has taken its toll: Bramwell (above, centre) has gone grey. ~ Tim de Lisle
Let It All In released in Europe Jan 21st, America Jan 22nd. British tour Feb 12th-24th
ROCK AT A GLANCE
Kraftwerk (Dusseldorf, to Jan 20th, London Feb 6th-14th). They may be down to a quarter of the original line-up, but the greatest band ever to come out of central Europe still don’t do things by halves. This residency, first seen at MoMA, New York, in April, now comes to their home town and Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. It comprises eight shows, each featuring one whole LP. "Trans Europa Express" should be the highlight.
Johnny Marr (album, Feb 25th in Britain/26th in America). After 30 years of sparkling fretwork for the Smiths, the Pretenders, Talking Heads, Electronic and Modest Mouse, Britain’s best-loved guitarist under 60 finally gets round to making a solo debut.
Jake Bugg (European tour, Feb 2nd to March 30th). The return of a vital rocking archetype: the likeably stroppy teenager. Jake Bugg is an 18-year-old from Nottingham with a pen in one hand, a fag in the other, a penchant for Fifties-style pop and enough tunes to make half a great debut album. ~ TDL