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REVIEWED! 15.1.01

Wrapping up 'em pesky loose ends 2000 style or I wish I had this writing gig full-time but sadly I've also got to work for a living so that my wife and three kids have food and clothing, so apologies all round for my general slothful tardiness…whatever - on with the show…

TEENAGE FANCLUB Howdy! [Columbia]

A grower, if I ever heard one. By all accounts, a low key effort but with all the little touches that only the Fannies can deliver, this one stands up with the best of their sublime discography. (8.5)

MARK JOHNSON Last Night on the Roller Coaster [Blade/Radioghost]

www.mark-johnson.com

Dream-pop in the real sense, if your dreamers happen to be Roy Orbison, John Lennon, Brian Wilson and Phil Spector. Gorgeous epic orchestrated pop in the grand ELO tradition. (8)

MICHAEL CARPENTER Hopefulness [Not Lame] www.notlame.com

Carpenter's ode to his new wife is as 'up' as that suggests. As usual, the musicianship is superb (he plays everything!) and the songs reflect Carpenter's creative debt to the Beatles, the beach Boys and the Byrds. Essential powerpop. (8.5)

THE FIGGS Sucking in Stereo [HearBox] www.hearbox.com

Exploding from the get-go, mod pugilists the Figgs present a Who-like concept album on a typical night's gig for the modern pop band. With energy levels in the red, this album will get you groovin' in no time. Don't think, just react! (7.5)

DAKOTA SUITE Signal Hill [Badman] www.badmanrecordingco.com

Foggy, grey skies. Poignant, melancholy moments fill the thoughts of this Yorkshire quartet. Chamber/baroque pop is probably the best description. Definitely one for the quiet in disposition. (7)

THE FINKERS Double Back & Go [Stolen] www.internationaltrash.com

This sophomore record is chock full of pop thrills you might expect from a band which features Mick (Pyramidiacs) Baty and Mike Carpenter. Premier Oz pop - it seldom gets better! (8)

STEVE EARLE Transcendental Blues [E2/Artemis] www.e2records.com www.artemisrecords.com

Not many artists in this day and age can so effortlessly blend various styles and genres like Mr Earle. Eastern mysticism, rustic roots rock, Beatlesque pop and much more, Earle delivers in his familiar honest fashion. Solid. (8.5)

BLUESKY ROADSTER Roller Coaster Goodbye [Self-released] www.blueskyroadster.net

Bluesky Roadster play a raw, infectious brand of primal rock 'n' roll with the right melodic flourishes to guarantee a place in any powerpop fan's heart. No duds, smooth tuneful rawk all the way. Reliable. (7.5)

BADLY DRAWN BOY Hour of the Bewilderbeast [Twisted Nerve]

AKA Damon Gough, Badly Drawn Boy's main distinction is an archaic adherence to old school songcraft and a classic affinity with lo-fi homespun charm. That said, the songs are strangely detached, almost calculated exercises in the form. Which is inexplicable considering Gough's own musical obsessions with the likes of Nick Drake and Bruce Springsteen. (7)

 

MYRACLE BRAH The Myracle Brah [Not Lame] www.notlame.com 

Timely and appropriate that on the 60th anniversary of John Lennon's birth, Andy (the Myracle in the Brah) Bopp's third outing draws deeply from the Lennonesque well. Copiously covering every aspect of Lennon's musical influence, the songs range from early Merseybeat, visceral rock 'n' rollers, ethereal lovelorn ballads  and introspective folk tunes. A loving and faithful tribute to the greatest singer-songwriter of all time. (8.5)

BEACHWOOD SPARKS s/t [Sub-Pop] www.subpop.com 

Drawing inspiration from a particular pop era is fine but unfettered Xeroxing is another. Beachwood Sparks (note the Fab reference?) make no bones about where they're coming from - somewhere deep within the Cosmic Americana Heartland - but the real answers lie in the music. These good ol' boys may have the psychedelic hillbilly sound of the Flying Burrito Brothers but somehow the soul of Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman is AWOL. (7)

 

SHAZAM Rev 9 [Not Lame] www.notlame.com 

Garnering critical raves from the UK rock press is no mean feat but Nashville 'mockers' Shazam have certainly achieved it with their 21st Century exposition on the brand of powerpop pioneered by the likes of the Who, the Move and the Beatles. In the case of the latter, the power trio even include a cover of Revolution 9 which has to be heard to be believed. Sterling work! (8.5)