The Rooks

Double Dose of Pop!

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An early release on the Colorado-based Not Lame label, which would go on to become one of the dominant forces of the American power pop underground in the '90s, this unusual split CD marries tracks from two different bands, New York's Rooks and Los Angeles' Twenty Cent Crush. The Rooks steal the disc; although Twenty Cent Crush's harmony-heavy guitar pop is perfectly fine, their spirited performances are hampered by a tinny production and a lack of really memorable songs. All the tropes of power pop are present and accounted for, and the results are entirely listenable (particularly the Kinks-y "She's Soooo Cool"), but nothing quite grabs hold of the listener. The same is not true of the Rooks' songs, which are among the best the band ever did. The core duo of singer/guitarists Michael Mazzarella and Kristin Pinnell, joined here by temporary bassist Nancy Leigh (wife of cult hero Richard X. Heyman) and drummer Patrick Yourell, make sure their songs -- which are as derivative as those of Twenty Cent Crush -- can stand up on their own merits. The exceptionally cool phased guitar sound that underpins the opening "Praises" is only the first of many ear-catching sonic touches that enliven the songs, which are themselves more melodically rich and stylistically varied than those of their L.A. counterparts. Even weaker tracks like "Glitter Best" and "Music Sound Sensation" manage to remain interesting for their durations, and the best songs, like "Praises," "In a Pinwheel Spin," and the glorious "Colors," are among the high points of '90s power pop.

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