The It Girl

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Once again the state of things in Britain is so puzzling. London's Sleeper makes an LP twice as good as their promising but flawed Smart (killer singles and lots of filler) and receives more respect but less overall attention. Never mind! Turning to old SMITHS engineer STEPHEN STREET is a wise choice, because he's terrific at recording vocals (Morrissey never sounded better than he did in 1987 on Strangeways, Here We Come and 1988's solo Viva Hate), and because Street's guitar/bass/drums sound has so much frothy warmth (unnoticed in the LPs he's made with the more gimmicky BLUR). Singer LOUISE WENER is one of the most forthright human observers around, but her singing needed to improve, and with Street's assistance, it has greatly. On the standout singles "Sale of the Century," the Blondie-like "Statuesque" (think "I'm Always Struck By Your Presence, Dear"), and "Nice Guy Eddie," she tempers the talk-sing that occasionally took away from Smart and emotes with a new empathy for the sensual, caught-up-in-the-chaos characters she creates. And though nothing is quite the total knockout of Smart's "Inbetweener," The It Girl is more consistently accomplished, with a broader palette of influences (mostly Blondie and the Smiths, but lots of great '60s pop and post-punk too), and every song makes you feel something. Sit back and enjoy Wener, one of the most refreshing personalities in all of rock, here flourishing. This is intensive, intelligent relationship-rock that makes you feel alive.

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