MUSIC . . . THE COLOUR AND THE SHAPE: Formed out of the wreckage of post-Kurt Cobain Nirvana, Foo Fighter's eponymous 1995 debut was muddled but promising, notes TIME's Christopher John Farley: "Unfortunately, on their sophomore CD, Foo Fighters never breaks out of the label 'promising,' which starts to sound more like a burden than a compliment the second time around." The songs on the new album dwell mainly on how relationships fall apart, a subject thatís been dealt with in pop songs ever since pop songs began, and Foo Fighters fails to contribute any new insights. On one song, 'Up in Arms,' David Grohl actually sings, 'I cannot forget you, girl.' The problem is that there's nothing new here; none of the songs has much ambition beyond making a blunt impact. "If you're going to spell 'colour' with a u in your album title," Farley says, "shouldn't you at least try for pretentiousness?" MUSIC . . . FLAMING PIE: Much of Paul McCartney's new album was composed while he was helping compile the songs on the three Beatles Anthology albums which came out in 1995-96. "The main thing about it is I didnít have to do (an album), so it kind of changed the whole attitude," says McCartney. "So I ended up just stockpiling those songs and just going and recording them for my own fun. Which is a slightly different attitude. I just recorded them song by song rather than 'A Collection of Songs I'm Going In to Do.'" "As a result," notes Farley, "'Flaming Pie' is a relaxed, easygoing album; the songs sail blithely along, like boats on a lake on a bright, breezy day. although his Beatles glory years may be boxed and packaged along with the anthologies, this album shows his muse is still very much with him." BOOKS . . . THE GOOD BROTHER: "Chris Offutt is a prize-winning short-story writer ('Kentucky Straight'), and in his tough, funny, sometimes brilliantly written first novel, he can't quite shake the habit," says TIME's John Skow. 'The Good Brother' (Simon & Schuster; 317 pages; $23) could not be simpler or more direct in its narrative plan: a good man, Virgil Caudill, caught in a crushing predicament not of his making, commits a murder that seems unavoidable, abandons his home in the Kentucky hill country and survives precariously in Montana. The pages that narrate this contain no misdirection, no writerish word tasting, not even a flashback or shift in point of view, just fierce attention to the moment at hand. It is hard to see how Offuttís chapters could be more effective in the skill of their telling. Yet the pieces of the novel don't really hang together, notes Skow. There are at least three such segments, almost distinct enough to be separate stories, and in them Virgil's character swings wildly from ordinary and a bit slow to shrewd man of action to passive observer.