Echo/Chrysalis - 2003 - 50 minutes

My first encounter with Moloko was spine-tingling. Like a dream collaboration between Portishead with Dr Dre, 'Fun For Me' was an addictively sleazy jazz song. A nagging, fuzzy bassline provided the propulsive platform for a glamorous vocal from Arklow lass, Roisin Murphy. It should have been huge.

Instead it took Boris Dlugosch's remix of 'Sing It Back' to get Moloko the hit they craved. The song went on to dominate dancefloors, for what seemed like an eternity. Meanwhile, pop queens like Madonna and Kylie were carefully talking notes and soon released pop-dance crossovers themselves. Moloko had pioneered a new and commercially lucrative sound, and their high-profile competitors reaped rich rewards.

So, with one romantic break-up over with, the duo behind Moloko are back. The cover of 'Statues' is distinctly unpromising, depicting a dishevelled Murphy caught in the act of spilling two pints of lager. Her teeth are bared, her eyes say "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough". Her shirt is dank with water. It's a fearsome sight.

The music within is far less intimidating. 'Forever More' could be the new 'Sing It Back'; it's certainly as slinky and tight, if not quite as catchy. The other main contender for the hit of the summer is 'Cannot Contain This' which, somewhat inevitably, sees producer Mark Brydon jacking the syncopated rhythms of UK Garage.

But pounding subterranean beats are only part of the story of 'Statues'. Lilting harps adorn the Philly soul smoothness of 'The Only Ones' while closing track 'Over & Over' is a rapturous, string-heavy epic with dramatic, half-spoken vocals that rambles into a delirious David Axelrod-style instrumental wig-out.

It's an uneven collection though, confirming that Moloko are really a pop band that are prone to the occasional great single, but who find it difficult to sustain that quality over an entire album. 'Statues' sees them take a more mature, downbeat approach, which might exploit the expressive beauty of Murphy's voice well, but is often a little tedious. It could have been huge.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Familiar Feeling - Come On - Cannot Contain This - Statues - Forever More - Blow X Blow - 100% - The Only Ones - I Want you - Over & Over