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REVIEWED! MAY 2002
(A) Essential (B) Recommended (C) For fans only (D) Avoid

EAST RIVER PIPE 
Shining Hours in a Can
 
(Merge) 
www.mergerecords.com
 
DEL AMITRI 
Can You Do Me Good
 
(Mercury) 
www.delamitri.com

Now this is something special - the very first release from indie pop's resident home studio genius, East River Pipe aka FM Cornog, re-released for the new millennium. Not since Big Star graced the pop world with the gleaming guitars found on the three official releases has anyone managed to produce such irresistible flavours with so little at their disposal. First issued in 1994, this mini-masterpiece contains such essential tracks as "Make A Deal With The City," "My Life is Wrong," "Helmet On," "Happytown" and so on. How can such melancholy songs feel so good, you wonder? Indispensable. (A) What is the enduring appeal of this veteran Glasgow band? Well, sure there is the refined eclecticism of its music (from the slick dancey "Just Before You Leave" to the Britpoppin' "Can't Wash Her Away")  and the acerbic nature of Justin Currie's lyrics - witness the self-deprecating "Drunk in a Band." More than that, the overall professionalism of this latest chapter in Del Amitri's distinguished history reveals a band wiling to dig deeper into its resources to come up with the goods. Though, I could have easily done without the irreverent attack of "Jesus Saves." (A)

 IN BRIEF

THE TEMPORARIES - GROWING UP SLOWLY KINGFLY - ELEVATOR UP
ELKS SKIFFLE GROUP - ALIENS 263 EARTHMEN 0 RICH COX - DESIGNER FETISH
JOHN ASHFIELD - HARMONY BUNNY GARFIELD'S BIRTHDAY - PEEPSHOW
STILL - I DON'T MIND JACK AND THE BEANSTALK - VODKA LINE EP
THE BLUETONES - THE SINGLES THE BORIS FLATS - 'DINLO'
THE TEMPORARIES Growing Up Slowly (self-released) www.thetemporariesrock.com 
Take it from me, seekers of the holy PoP grail, the Temporaries have loads to offer if you're searching for that manic pop thrill in a 3 minute song. Reminiscent of the 'Mats in parts & the Young Fresh Fellows in others, the latter especially in the humorous off-the-wall bits, Growing Up Slowly is the proverbial unpolished diamond as tracks like the punky "Went to...," the hilarious "Popular Song," the dynamic "Girl Problems" & the poignant "Grocery Man" fully attest. Check 'em out!
(B)
KINGFLY Elevatorup (dingply) www.kingfly.net
This power trio possesses all the hooks, chops & image that, with the right amount of marketing muscle could have made Kingfly contenders, maybe a decade ago. Based on the evidence of the opening salvo of pristine guitars, radio-friendly tunes and shiny presentation found on "Getting Ready," "Sorry" & "Little Lost and Found" - there would be no difficultly visualizing success on the scale of say, Collective  Soul for this pop-rock combo.
(C) 
ELKS SKIFFLE GROUP Aliens 263 Earthmen 0 (Happy Beat) http://elksskiffle.xrs.net 
Hip hip hooray - the Elks are back! That's right, boys and girls, Johnny Casserole, Hoover Constellation, Janice Electrolux & Roosevelt Elk have returned to bless their devoted followers with more great slices of electro-pop paradise. It's light, it's fun, contains kitschy synth sounds and delivers with a pop attitude that is relentlessly um happy! Good enough for me!
(C)
RICH COX Designer Fetish (FTL) www.richcox.net 
There is something ultimately predictable about Cox's classy pop-rock sheen. The photos of Cox in the CD sleeve mark him out as a Nik Kershaw (remember him, kiddies?) look-a-like whilst his vocal style draws heavily from soul influences like Stevie Wonder & Al Green. No doubt also that the weight of such pop luminaries as Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, Jason Falkner, Jon Brion & Michael Penn figure significantly in material like "Chameleon Skin," "Rest Easy," "Top of the World" & "Here We Go." Not for all tastes but competent stuff nonetheless.
(C)
JOHN ASHFIELD Harmony Bunny (Popē) www.popsquaredrecords.com 
Very sweet! This homemade cookie comes complete with a complimentary chocolate Easter bunny (like the one on the cover) and inside, Ashfield impresses with his command of the power pop aesthetic - whether it is nailing down a flawless guitar solo in "Crush," delivering a cool mock-disco dynamic in "All Over You" or positively delighting with the near-perfect "Change Your Mind." Harmony Bunny deserves the attention of every card-carrying PoP lover - and that means you!
(B)
GARFIELD'S BIRTHDAY Peepshow (Pink Hedgehog) www.pinkhedgehog.com 
The legacy of British pop is still in safe hands as long as the likes of Garfield's Birthday remind all and sundry about the essential strengths of the gorgeous Beatles-Beach Boys-Byrds-Big Star influences that makes the best Britpop shine. "Everything" is fundamentally Lennonesque, "Thick Ear" is West Coast grandiose, "Garfield's Birthday" is music hall jaunty & "Eye to Eye" is darkly psychedelic. Splendid! (B)
STILL I Don't Mind (Lizard Heart) www.stillmusic.com 
Singer-songwriter Wade Biery is the prime mover behind this home studio recording project and proves yet again that production values alone will not save mediocre material. That said, this album sounds excellent on all counts! From the opening vibrant "Goodbye" to the moody "All Around Me," from the pulsating "Another Day" to the atmospheric "The Lady's Song," Biery's obvious way with tunes & arrangements frames rather thought-provoking lyrical concepts. Huge promise.
(B)
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Vodka Line EP (Parasol) www.parasol.com 
Okay, you know the deal with Joe Algeri and his merry band - a healthy (over) dose of Scottish pop crunch (highlighted on the lively "Mr Cynic") and West Coast melodic sensibilities (check out the Byrdsy treasure that is "She Does the Handclaps") that belie a deep affection for Gram Parson's cosmic American music (just listen to the heartrending vibes on "Bleed"). The rest of this EP showcases a couple of acoustic tracks which provide an excellent counterpoint to the full-bodied material. Lovely.
(B)
THE BLUETONES The Singles (A&M) www.bluetones.co.uk 
The poor man's Stone Roses? Well, considering that I've always considered the Roses a tad overrated, that comparison tends to be a bit neutral in my book. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, in the Britpop scheme of things, the Bluetones had as much impact as Herman's Hermits in the 60s. Draw your own conclusions. Not as brash as Oasis or skillful as Blur, the Bluetones come in somewhere in-between.
(C)
THE BORIS FLATS 'Dinlo" The Original Soundtrack (Boris Tones) www.dugoutstudio.co.uk 
This English duo of Van Norris-Jones & Geoff Webb certainly have hyperactive musical creative talents that recall the fanatical pop smarts of folk like Todd Rundgren, Andrew Gold, Andy Partridge and 10cc coupled with the melodic inventiveness of Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne and Brian Wilson. Sure, there's an element of piss-take in this borderline concept album but the sheer range of styles, arrangements and instrumentations utilized here is quite often breathtaking. Good vibrations, indeed. (A)