Cathedral Square Park

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It's been nearly two decades since the Blow Pops took root, but frontman Mike Jarvis shows no sign of losing his power pop sweet tooth. Guitar hooks, thick harmonies, and effervescent melodies are the standard on Cathedral Square Park, Jarvis' fourth album with Blow Pops spinoffs the Lackloves. Despite the addition of newcomer Kevin Ponec (their third bassist in ten years, and -- in a startling contrast to the band's lighthearted jangle pop -- a professional gravedigger), the Lackloves rarely sound like a support group for their lead singer. Rather, they're a tight power trio with three competent vocalists, all of whom do their best to pack ample amounts of sticky-sweet melody into the album's every nook and cranny. Cathedral is built on hooks, and hummable bits of pop craftsmanship show up everywhere: the bassline in "Space Age Romeo," the rhythmic interplay of "Dance with Me," the '50s-styled melody and galloping drums that make "Marlena" sound like the long-lost granddaughter of Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue." Backed by the oohs and aahs of his bandmates, Jarvis spins lovelorn narratives like a 21st century Allan Clarke, occasionally channeling Alex Chilton's pop/rock vigor during the most energetic tracks. Like many Rainbow Quartz bands, the Lackloves haven't trained their eyes on the Billboard charts, and Cathedral Square Park lacks the obvious commercial bent of, say, a Fountains of Wayne release. So while there's nothing like "Stacy's Mom" here, Cathedral could still be the first solid pop album of 2008, with even the least intriguing songs packing a solid punch. After all, it's all ear candy -- even the less substantive pieces are still thoroughly addictive.

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