Toothpaste 2000

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For several years, Toothpaste 2000 has been threatening to make a perfect pop album. This time, thanks to using an outsider producer (and a studio that isn't their rehearsal space), they've managed it. Sixteen songs, and not a dud in the bunch, from the neo-Big Star kick of "Bubblegum" to the pop-punk ('70s division) of "Up Past Bedtime." Along the way they include a song Oasis should probably kill to buy, the glorious "Mona Lisa Overdrive," and the seductive-with-a-twist "Cigarettes & Magazines." They don't hide the fact that their main influence is classic British pop, but they've been doing this long enough to have made it just one part of their arsenal which also runs to power pop, punk, and touches of artists as diverse as ELO and Phil Spector. There's plenty of meat to the backing vocals, which flesh out the songs, and for a three-piece they make a very big noise, thanks in part to the effective and melodic bass work by Frank Bednash, which frees up Donna Esposito to prove that women can be guitar heroes too. It doesn't hurt, either, that they've come up with what are really the best songs of their career, or that in Kirk Jamieson they've got a powerhouse drummer who understands when to lay back and when to come on strong. An album that deserves a wider -- in fact a huge -- audience.

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