It's never a good idea to test the patience of music fans. Stereo MCs won awards for their breakthrough album Connected in 1992 but took a disastrous nine years to record the follow-up, by which time most people had forgotten just how innovative their indie-hip-hop fusion once was. Paradise has arrived relatively promptly but contains little to dispel the general impression that the lethargic Londoners are yesterday's men. A messy concoction of rap, soul and funk, it's a much darker and less immediate affair than either of its predecessors. The saving grace is the guttural rhyming of Rob Birch, whose half-stoned musings still have a certain charm. Sadly, for the most part, the MCs sound like a band that's lost its sense of purpose.