Jack and the Beanstalk

Cowboys in Sweden

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Swiping its title from an old Lee Hazlewood album and its sound from any number of previous power pop bands, Jack and the Beanstalk's Cowboys In Sweden is unapologetically unoriginal, but in the power pop world, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Singer/songwriter Joe Algeri, formerly of the Summer Suns and DM3, the two finest Australian pop bands of the last decade, has an almost instinctual knack for catchy guitar hooks and melodic choruses. His lyrical sense is strictly by the numbers, but he does have a sense of humor about it: the lyrics of the two-minute "Baby!" consist only of the title word plus "hey," "girl," oh," and the yelled instruction "solo." But power pop isn't really about lyrics, it's about hooks and harmonies, which this album has in spades, particularly on the outstanding "She Drives A Volvo" and the tributary "Raspberry Jam."

Importantly, Cowboys In Sweden recognizes something many power pop albums have forgotten in the age of 80-minute CDs: the importance of brevity. Especially in a genre that tends towards sameiness, it's vital to recognize that a song should never be any longer than it has to be, and the three-minute blasts of this album are exactly right. Cowboys In Sweden is an old school 39:51 in length, and only the addition of three live tracks at the end, "Curiosity," "GP" (the band's first single, bizarrely equating Gram Parsons and Jesus) and a smoking cover of ex-Dictator Andy Shernoff's "Who Will Save Rock and Roll," bring it up to that length. Wisely, Cowboys In Sweden bows out before it becomes tiresome. Would that Oasis could pick up that hint.

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