The Dentists

Dressed

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If you really liked the kind of breezy post-punk/indie British sound typified by the Smiths or XTC but couldn't stand Morrissey and wished Andy Partridge wouldn't try so hard, the solution is the Dentists' Dressed. It's no knock against the Dentists' abilities to describe them in such a way -- anything but. What makes the group so enjoyable, and the focus of a low-key but persistent enough cult (consider Lida Husik, who covered one of their songs in later years), is its knack for the kind of sweet guitar catchiness beloved by power pop fanatics worldwide. But unlike any number of Beatles wannabes, the Dentists are not merely actually from the U.K., and aren't concerned with sounding straitjacketed in a sound defined by Rubber Soul or the like. There's an amiable roughness and elegant chiming both at the heart of the band's sound, bespeaking everything from the ghost of the Byrds to polite but effective rave-ups, not to mention just enough energy from punk. Dressed, collecting the cream of the band's slew of '80s releases, makes for a fine introduction to a band unafraid of upbeat feelings but not without portraits of melancholy and edginess when desired (check out "Dawn Overdone" for a fine example). Not to mention quirkiness -- what else are song titles like "Tony Bastable v. John Noakes" and "Just Like Oliver Reed" meant to suggest? Michael Murphy's singing is clean and clear, not sticky, held back in the mix just enough but not buried in it, while his guitar work and Robert Collins' work carries everything along song for song. Add in the spare but sharp work of bassist Mark Matthews and, on most tracks, Ian Smith's drumming, and the result is perfection. If the very first song, "Strawberries Are Growing in My Garden (And It's Wintertime)," connects, then Dressed will be worth every note.

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