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REVIEWED! 15 December 2000 

BAT COUNTRY Entertainment Now (A Mighty Ohio Record)

www.batcountry.com 

Forty seconds into We’re Your Entertainment, the second track off this album from these LA popsters, you’d be tempted (like I was) to press “stop.” But then, the glorious choral hook hits and it’s no looking back! Tracks like the breezy Can’t Endure Any More, the poignant The Last Lovers On Earth, the tongue-in-cheek disco-fried Miss You (yup that one), the beaty Jesse James & the howling Downhill Racer display not only hook-laden chops but the magic chord changes all card-carrying pop fans lust for. 7.5 

POSSUM Strange Pets (Divorce Records)

www.getpossum.com 

Singer-songwriter Rick Monroe has roped in a cosmopolitan group of musicians (including South African guitarist Scott Miller & Norwegian keyboard player Johannes Stole) to deliver an EP that hearkens back to the good old days when Top 40 pop referred to the melodic sophisticated crunch of bands like the Raspberries. The tunes may be sweet but the sound is tough as nails as songs like Numb, You & Can I Call You Home cannot but leave a favorable impression. 6.5 

EARLY EDISON Self-titled (Owmagroin Music)

www.EarlyEdison.com 

Alice is the high-point of this satisfactory collection, with its pleasing soft-loud dynamics recalling punk and pure pop influences with one stroke. Elsewhere, the perky commentary of Demographically Pleasing; the staccato whine of Victim of the Truth, the metallic low self-esteem of Nothing Is An Accident & hard rockin’ reflection of I’m Only Three marks this Long Island quartet as one to look out for. Fans of Green Day, the Knack, Pixies & Ben Folds Five will not be disappointed. 7.5 

ARCH STATION self-titled (Arch Empire)   

www.archstation.com

Add Arch Station to the growing list of modern rock bands (like Marvelous 3) that have elected to turn to melody to spice up their sonic assaults on the big bad world. Difference is that Arch Station choose to sing about the second coming, the Christian life and what it all means. This focus in no way inhibits their ability to raise the hairs on your neck with pristine pop songs like The Public Way, Crooked Lullaby, Standing By – a gorgeous strings-inflected ballad, What About You & the lively It’s Time. Highly recommended. 8 

SPARKWOOD The La La Crutch (Sparkwood Music)

spark_wood@hotmail.com 

Stand up and take a bow, Sparkwood! This homemade cookie has managed to simulate the creative soul of Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk with a fraction of the budget that Sturmer & Manning were given. Whatever…there’s a certain vibe about Sparkwood’s, a definite assurance about the band’s mix of guitar and piano-based tunesmithery. There are moments (e.g. Trilogy I, Trilogy II, Ben & Katy, Wurly, the shimmering Naked Truth, Ramie) where The La La Crutch truly urm sparkles. The 1970s are coming back in a big way (there’s plenty of Todd, Raspberries, Supertramp and Randy Newman here) and Sparkwood, thank goodness, are knee deep in the magic stuff. 8 

LU BANGO The Little Bang Theory (Sam Records)

samrecords@worldnet.att.net 

Lu Bango’s a singer-songwriter cut from the same hallowed cloth as Elvis Costello, Robyn Hitchcock, Marshall Crenshaw, Freedy Johnston and John Wesley Harding. Meaning, the pop pedigree is guaranteed with marvelous tunes sustaining intelligently worked out lyrics. Did I also mention that he’s Frank Bango’s brother? Blissful folk pop that will never let you down. 7.5 

H. CHINASKI Smaller-Sized Jar With An Idea (DPG)

doubleplus@earthlink.net 

Lo-fi, atonal, angular rock is the obvious reference point in H.Chinaski’s domination plan. But that’s not the whole story, there are fragile pop moments fighting to be heard amongst the clutter of sloppy chords and screaming vocals. Seriously displaced. 6 

BEN’S DIAPERS Celebrate the Cliché (Popatak)

www.poko.fi 

Hailing from an unlikely powerpop source (Finland), Ben’s Diapers are no slouches in coming up with the goods, like keen tunes, spirited performances and lively guitar work. With production chores handled by the ubiquitous pop Aussie Michael Carpenter, Celebrate the Cliché is a splendid affair. 7 

KENNY HOWES The Right Idea (Second Heaven)

www.secondheaven.com 

A bouncing collection of album tracks (from Howes’ three albums with Jukebox Records) and other odds and ends, The Right Idea, showcases Howes’ penchant to meld catchy melodies with garage rock sensibilities. Without any embarrassing filler whatsoever, The Right Idea is an excellent place to get acquainted with first class powerpop. 7.5

RAT WAKES RED Dizzy on Daddy (Rat Disk)

www.ratdisk.com 

Proving that pop can be just as compelling and affecting without percussive elements, the duo of James Rafferty and Jeral Benjamin let the songs, vocals, guitars and strings communicate the poignant and touching themes and concepts that fill this ambitious album. 6.5

ELKS SKIFFLE GROUP The Space age Sounds of Elks Skiffle Group (Happy Beat)

http://elkskiffle.xrs.net 

Comprising four pop puppets from outer space (allegedly), the Elk Skiffle Group combine cheesy synth instrumentation with pure pop songwriting and an excellent female vocalist in “Janice Electrolux”! Reminiscent of the Adventures in Stereo and Marine Research, this is a joke that works and how! 6.5

RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOT The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack Elliot: Original Soundtrack (Vanguard)

www.vanguardrecords.com 

Providing the transition from Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan is folk music legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. This original soundtrack album features vibrant performances from the great man himself and some noteworthy guests viz Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan (the hilarious Acne) and Johnny Cash. A fitting tribute. 6

MELLOW The Morning After Paintdrops EP (Atmospheriques) 

From the same label that brought the pop world the fabulous Tahiti 80 comes the “Air meets ELO” methodology of Mellow. The opening Another Mellow Winter is a pleasing Beatlesque rip through Baby You’re A Rich Man whilst the remaining tracks resolve certain techno difficulties with tunes and substance admirably. A full length album will be an intriguing prospect. 6.5

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS Mwng (Flydaddy) 

These fellows must be out of their bleeding minds – an entire album in the Welsh language! Yes, boys and girls, who else would attempt something this uncommercial, this inaccessible, this self-indulgent than our lovely pop anarchists, the Furries! Sure don’t know what the lads are singing about but the songs are wonderful nonetheless. Welsh album of the year, no contest! 7.5