Before forming the '90s pop revival combo Jellyfish, Roger Manning (keyboards) and Andy Sturmer (vocals/percussion) teamed up with Chris Witt Ketner (bass/vocals), George Cole (guitar), and Se Padilla (keyboards) to form Beatnik Beatch. This, their 1988 eponymous effort, was actually the band's second long-player. Two years earlier, before Manning had hooked up with them, they created their own indie release At the Zulu Pool (1986). The project so impressed Atlantic Records, that the band -- who had undergone an alteration in personnel with Padilla ultimately being replaced by Manning -- was offered a deal. Beatnik Beatch (1988) took the strongest material from At the Zulu Pool, added a handful of freshly penned selections, and created their major-label debut. Although the sterile sonic ambience inherent in the early days of digital recording do tend to date their sound, overriding any technical limitations are Ketner and Sturmer's uniformly solid songwriting. Their ability to marry engaging lyrics with catchy and compelling modern pop sensibilities stands out on the propulsive opening title track "Beatnik Beatch" -- placing an obvious emphasis on the heavy back "beat." It joins the rocker "Lonesome Town" as another holdover from the Zulu Pool days. And with good reason too, as the intensity of the taut syncopated verses lets loose during the freewheelin' singalong worthy chorus. "Maria" is the first of the new tunes and definitely has a different feel to it with a jazzier melody that brings to mind Joe Jackson's Body and Soul (1984) era. The optimistic ballad "Love on Your Side" and the minor chord power jangle on "Harlem" follow with another pair of sublime slices of late-'80s indie pop. Don't let the energetic '50s rockabilly rhythms and inviting connotations of "Welcome" throw you off, as the words reveal a darker "love it or leave it" attitude. "Watching the Rain" -- the final remnant from Zulu Pool -- is bathed in moody synth overtones that recall the Fixx and portends Jellyfish's "She Still Loves Him" minus the obvious Beatles' influence. Thanks to the Noble Rot imprint of Collectors' Choice Music, Beatnik Beatch was put back in print on CD in 2007 with updated liner notes from Scott Schinder.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer