Virgin - 2004 - 41 minutes

It's a sin to do it, but sometimes you can't help judging an album by its cover. You only had to look at the front of Air's '10,000 Hz Legend' to realise it was trouble. And, sure enough, a futuristic image, that some 80s metal bands would've regarded as too tacky, gave way to a plodding album that had none of the allure of their debut, 'Moon Safari'.

The cover of 'Talkie Walkie' has Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin going back to the drawing board - stuck in front of what looks like a series of very hard sums. It would be too harsh to say the duo are returning to formula, but what Air have realised is what they do best and signed up producer Nigel Godrich to bring it out in them.

Too many 'background' albums have come and gone for 'Talkie Walkie' to be considered life or indeed coffee-table shaping, yet it does have the power to almost convince you that its predecessor didn't happen.

With no guest vocalists, Dunckel and Godin pass the mic with varying results. At the business end of things is single 'Cherry Blossom Girl', a song that exemplifies Air's ability to be seductive and slightly menacing at the same time. A tough day at the office won't seem quite so bad, though, if you put on 'Run'. It amusingly conjures up images of Peter Lorre fronting an electro outfit and convinces that the track should've been an instrumental.

And two of the best tracks are: 'Alone in Kyoto', currently to be heard on 'Lost in Translation' closes the record with you wishing for more, while 'Alpha Beta Gaga' is the coolest tune to feature whistling since Guns 'n' Roses 'Patience' with added banjo to bounce it along.

'Talkie Walkie' is a grower and depending what happens or doesn't between now and December, it could turn out to have one of the biggest hearts of the year. It's an interesting adventure for Dunckel and Godin, even though they're not quite on 'Safari'.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Venus - Cherry Blossom Girl - Run - Universal Traveller - Mike Mills - Surfin' on a Rocket - Another Day - Alpha Beta Gaga - Biological - Alone in Kyoto