Royal Belleville - 2002 - 44 minutes

France's archetypal moody stoner veers away from his cinematic beatscapes towards the craft of the songwriter on his third album. Loco's last full-length album was an exquisite collection of remixes and the leftfield pop influence of those collaborators (Pulp, St Etienne, The High Llamas, among others) is evident on 'Kill Your Darlings'.

Opening track, 'Cocaine Diana' is a classic indie dirge, which fortunately grows better on repeated listening. But it's a harsh and gloomy pill after the sugar-coated swoon of Loco's debut, 'A Grand Love Story'. 'Horsetown In Vain' is classic Kid Loco, but that widescreen shuffling sound has become a cliche, and despite the track's obvious accomplishment, it disappoints.

'Three Foot Reefer' is embarrassingly close to self-parody, but El Loco definitely comes up with the goods with 'A Little Bit Of Soul', the kind of anthem that will get the Mercury Rev fans excited. It would make an aspirant indie band queue for Loco's magic at the mixing desk, if the man ever decides to move into full-time knob-twiddling.

'Kill Your Darlings' might be in danger of falling into the chasm between the beathounds and the guitarniks, but there's enough jewels among the duds to satisfy both camps, with the Havana strut of 'Gypsie Good Time', the pounding beats of 'Going Round In Circles' and the sweet send-off of 'I Want You' providing a pleasingly well rounded feel to the album. C'est magnifique, mais c'est pas hip-hop.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Cocaine Diana - Lucy's Talking - Horsetown In Vain - Three Feet High Reefer - Little Bit Of Soul - I Can't Let It Happen To You - Gypsie Good Time - Here Come The Munchies - Going Around In Circles - I Want You