By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
On the more fresh-faced end of the scale, Cub are convincing avatars of cuddle-core, a warm and fuzzy sub-genre of all-girl guitar pop bands that includes ... umm, Cub, and maybe Sissy Bar. On their touchy-feely tuneful Box of Hair, the Canadian threesome aren't always as polite as they let on, but mostly they are. Sometimes they attempt a bit more naughtiness than suits their nature, cranking up the amps, singing about sex and porno stars and letting a four-letter word slip.
But such digressions seem like dress-up, the errant obscene digression so unconvincing that it makes the listener want to wave a disapproving finger at the group. Cub are most endearing when they stay focused on recasting the Go-Go's with some North Country grit, or, perhaps, Shonen Knife without the funny accents. (** 1/2)
There aren't any funny accents to be found in Love Nut either, though their music almost suggests there should be a slightly British lilt to the vocals. In a more just world, Love Nut would be trading Beatles references atop the charts with Oasis. But alas, this Baltimore quartet has placed itself in the slippery mitts of Interscope, a label seemingly incapable of breaking pop bands outside their respected regions of influence. And that's a shame -- in fact, it's more than a shame, it's criminal, seeing as how Bastards of Melody is a near flawless debut deserving of a wider audience (it's been available in stores since last summer). Nearly every track could be a single, and that's the intention: for each tune to stand on its own, chorus after indelible chorus.
Nitpickers might cite Love Nut's sleeve-worn debt to the Fab Four, which shows up most clearly in the Lennony vocal ticks of guitarists Andy Bopp and Max Mueller. Rarely, though, has a group waxed so nostalgic and sounded so timeless in spite of itself. Fast, furious and efficient (ten songs in just under 25 minutes), these thirtysomethings play as if they had been part of the British Invasion while in the womb.
Help a band that was built for bigger, better things; buy Bastards of Melody. And when you do, don't be alarmed by the liner notes. That gibberish posing as song lyrics is exactly what it appears to be: gibberish. (**** 1/2)
Presumably, the New York duo that calls itself Fountains of Wayne can tap the essence of the Beach Boys's unaffected charm at will. Other times, they come off like a less shrill They Might Be Giants, another smart-ass pop duo to which Fountains of Wayne owe a debt of gratitude.
Perky, well-scrubbed melodies notwithstanding, a frayed thread of tainted innocence runs through Fountains of Wayne. But the pair appears unable -- or unwilling -- to treat it with the seriousness it deserves. These guys take a song about suicide and self-destructive behavior ("She's Got a Problem") and make it all seem as harmless as a sunny day at the pool.
Then again, great pop songwriters have been trivializing human suffering since the dawn of the form, and, without a doubt, Fountains of Wayne is a songwriter's band. (Need references? Wayne's Adam Schlesinger penned the theme song for the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do! and founded the equally hook-literate band Ivy.) And while Fountains of Wayne is really only a half-fine debut, I've added a star for the simple reason that its first single, "Radiation Vibe," is actually receiving the airplay it deserves in Houston. (*** 1/2)
What sort of rock god grants Fountains of Wayne its shot at national success while largely brushing aside a Love Nut? Evidently the same god who assured Bush's sophomore release a spot in last week's Billboard Top Ten. Alas, in an imperfect world, justice is not an easy thing to come by. But thankfully, a simple, catchy chorus still is.
***** Going somewhere fast
**** Going somewhere soon
*** Going somewhere eventually
** Going somewhere
* Just going