Mother May I

33 1/3

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How many indie bands were signed in the early-to-mid '90s, only to be dropped after only one LP, when they failed to sell millions right away like Nirvana? This binge and purge killed practically every band that got the ax, but it didn't finish this one. In 1994, Columbia signed this promising D.C. band and released its first LP, Splitsville. You might have seen 'em on the road with Soul Asylum, Sponge, or the Judybats, and they placed a few songs on TV shows. Then...poof! It's taken Mother May I five years to recuperate, but their spry hard rock power pop is back on the self-released 33 1/3. Funny, if Sony had held on to them, they could be stars now, with any reasonable standard of artist development: This LP is full of a big, thick wall of loud guitar pop that has unequivocal commercial rock crossover potential, but the singing, lyrics, and pop hooks are indie enough for those with refined taste. "Map of the Stars" is a perfect example with a randy-hook chorus like the Posies, complete with earnest vocals and polished but resounding guitars. The recording is strong, the band poised, the chorus harmonies in place, and they can bop with the best D.C. bands, or croon over an acoustic and a piano for variety ("Loveless"). Sometimes times they sound too much like other bands on this well-traveled road that stretches back to the early Neighborhoods. But at other times, they explode through the changes from verses to choruses and squawk some spicy guitar line, and you're glad they persevered. (1031 N. Danville St., Arlington, VA 22201; mothermayi@mailcity.com)

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