The Bicycles

The Good the Bad and the Cuddly

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The Bicycles are a five-piece group from Toronto and The Good the Bad and the Cuddly is their brilliant debut album. Taking the best of pop (with a capital P) music from the last 40 years, like chamber/baroque pop horns and strings, bubblegum melodies, indie pop charm, Brill Building-worthy songcraft, the energy of garage rock, and new wave do-it-yourself attitude, the band's sound is a glorious testament to the beauty and wonder of pop music large or small. Using the classic pop lineup of guitars, vocal harmonies, various keys, and small doses of horns, the Bicycles and their friends from similar bands like the Hidden Cameras, the Golden Dogs, and the Meligrove Band have created something very cool here. The Good the Bad and the Cuddly is made up of hard-charging rockers ("B-B-Bicycles," "Please Don't Go"), ramshackle rockers ("Gotta Get Out," "Luck of Love"), rollicking Kinksy pop ("Paris Be Mine," "Sure Was Great"), good old breezy indie pop ("Homework," "Longjohns and Toques") and surprisingly poignant ballads ("I Will Appear for You," "Australia," "Ghost Town"), each song arranged simply and deftly, and sung with innocent fervor or heart-stopping sweetness as the occasion dictates. The only thing that slows down the record a bit is the cover of the Harry Nilsson-penned Monkees song "Cuddly Toy"; it somehow breaks the spell that has been cast over the previous ten songs. Maybe it's because it makes specific reference to the group's influences; maybe it's due to the band's original being so strong. Either way the album would have been better off omitting it. Still, we're talking magic here, a record that knocks the competition out with ease. For example, fans of the Apples in Stereo or the Elephant 6 scene and alumni who thought they had the market cornered on this kind of stuff will be floored by this little band that wears matching shorts emblazoned with the letter B. Maybe the only other band to recently work such a magical blend of influences, hooks, and inspired playing is Bikeride on their criminally ignored 2002 masterpiece Morning Macumba. Like that album, The Good the Bad and the Cuddly is a tiny moment of genius destined to be overlooked by all except for an very lucky few.

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