Too Much Joy

Finally

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An aptly-named album, 1996's Finally was Too Much Joy's first release in nearly four years. Having been through the major-label mangle and a key personnel change (replacing founding member Sandy Smallens with veteran producer William Wittman, whose decidedly non-punk credits include Air Supply, the Outfield and Cyndi Lauper), the group are rejuvenated here, replacing the production gloss of their last couple of albums with the sort of punk-inflected buzzsaw guitar pop that had enlivened 1989's Son of Sam I Am, only with a better sense of melody. Musically ace though the album is, however, singer Tim Quirk's lyrics aren't quite up to his earlier standards. "You Will," mocking a then-current ad campaign for AT&T, goes for rather too easy a target, and songs like "I'm Your Wallet" and "How To Be Happy" aren't as impressive as their titles would lead one to expect. And the cover of Billy Bragg's "A New England" isn't a patch on Kirsty MacColl's definitive reading. Little wonder that more attention was paid to the cartoon nudity on the cover than to the songs themselves.

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