At first blush, Houston five-piece Mechanical Boy's debut Play Along doesn't sound too far removed from indie-dance bands like the Rapture or the Bravery, but scratch the surface and there's a rock band under there — and a potent rock band at that. A few songs miss their marks, but overall Play Along holds together with an energetic whimsy you might expect from a band that takes its name from an episode of 1960s-'70s stoner/children's TV puppet show H.R. Pufnstuf. Poppy but sturdy, loaded with hooks, alternative but not too alternative, Play Along is an excellent record to play "Spot the Influences" with — there's Chicago power-pop brats OK Go on "She Does," Scots Franz Ferdinand's rigid dance-funk on "Swing Low and Carry Me Home," laid-back L.A. surfer dudes Incubus on "Lydia" and Tears for Fears circa Songs From the Big Chair on "All Alone in the Bering Sea." The biggest, though, is easily Duran Duran. Singer Tim Anderson's eerie vocal resemblance to Simon LeBon doesn't hurt, but MB's seamless combination of pop, rock and disco makes "The Who's Who of My Youth" and "The Bachelor" surefire singles. Or surefire singles 25 years ago. Calling Play Along radio-ready may be a stretch in these barren times, but it's as Internet-ready as a brand-new Dell.
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