Hot Saki & Bedtime Stories

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The merry men from Chicago create an even more varied and generally successful package on Saki; the ghost of Corgan crunch yet lurks throughout, while his Pumpkins bandmate D'Arcy contributes vocals for "Four Leaf Clover," but Catherine is now fully its own concern, as the opening cut "Whisper" demonstrates. Sure, there's more than a little guitar pyrotechnics at points, but the brisk acoustic strums and whispered, T. Rex-ish vocals create more of a gentle summertime feeling, only slightly spiked. The big change is in fact who is singing those vocals, namely guitarist Mark Rew, taking over from the departing Jendon. From there on in, the group cuts a crisp, almost new wave feeling, in terms of tight, sharp performances if not necessarily obvious inspiration or sonic cloning. There's still plenty of charging fuzz but often employed in the surface of more direct hooks, as with "Don't Touch Me There." Rew maintains his vocal purr and sting throughout, exchanging the wistful bliss of the past for a slightly snottier feeling, to an extent. More than a few tracks show a gentle artiness to match the punchy beat on display elsewhere. "Milkshake" is a fine one, a combination of Cocteau Twins-touched electric guitar, soft piano, and lead acoustic lines, resulting in a gentle but still slightly edgy mood. The slight flamenco touches on "Make Me Smile" and the moody lope of "Sign of the Cross" are two other good examples, as is the soft/loud, melancholic (and amusingly titled) post-breakup number "Pink Floyd Poster." Rew comes up with some great zingers at points, thus, from, "It's Gonna Get Worse": "Count your friends, it won't take long, including yourself/You'll find you only have one."

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