Professor and Maryann

Lead Us Not into Penn Station

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    9
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If the Professor and Maryann had been a bunch of jokey frat boy alt-rockers (remember His Boy Elroy or Eve's Plum?), their name would have been unforgivable. However, the duo of singer Danielle Brancaccio and guitarist/songwriter Ken Rockwood (who actually is an English professor in his day gig) have enough smart-alecky wit to pull off both the band name and album title -- which Fountains of Wayne stole a year later on their debut album -- without sounding too obviously giggly. The humor in Rockwood's lyrics is martini-dry, with the title track, the witty "The Theme From Claire: The Musical" and "Stumbling Home," which has the self-lacerating sting of Chris Difford's most booze-soaked Squeeze lyrics, the particular standouts. Brancaccio's singing is considerably less mannered than the squeaky, helium-pitched trill she had affected on parts of the Professor and Maryann's 1993 debut, Fairy Tale, and it's a much more subtle and expressive instrument here. Overall, this is a far superior follow-up to what had been a promising but flawed debut.

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