Polydor Records – 2001 – 41 minutes

Reading 1996 is one event that Ian Brown will never be able to cite as a personal highpoint. Universally reviled for a wretched performance with an ersatz Stone Roses line-up, Brown must have slinked away with the words 'tone' and 'deaf' ringing in his ears. Two years later, Brown returned with his first solo album, the patchy 'Unfinished Monkey Business'. 'Golden Greats' followed in 1999, and back he comes once more with his third solo offering. Like him or loathe him, Brown certainly has balls.

First single 'F.E.A.R.' gives the one-fingered salute, so beloved of Brown wannabe Liam Gallagher, to the ex-Stone Roses singer's detractors. Sporadically symphonic in scope, 'F.E.A.R.', with its clever acronym wordplay, goes some way to boosting Brown's credibility as a songwriter. Much of this album is taken up with lyrical notions of flight and space, best evinced on ''Stardust' ("I'm made from stardust") and 'Bubbles' ("I landed from Mars/Made my way through the Milky Way"). It's fitting then, that the sound is suitably spacey and ambient, a broadly textured plateau of clever loops and samples.

Of course there are a fair share of fillers here too. 'Hear No See No' is a dud from start to finish, while the cocaine-slamming sentiment of 'The Gravy Train' is simply trite.

Ultimately, 'Music Of The Spheres' goes a long way towards showing that the early predictions of doom for Brown's solo career were folly of the highest order. The simian swinger has taken all the criticism on the chin, and has hit back with a considerable blow of his own.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: F.E.A.R. – Stardust – The Gravy Train – Bubbles – Hear No See No – Northern Lights – Whispers – El Mundo Pequeño – Forever And A Day – Shadow Of A Saint