Jane Pow

Love It Be It!/State

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A handy two-for-one CD collection of the band's two albums, Love It Be It!/Stare makes a pretty good case for Jane Pow being, if not the lost British band of the '90s, then definitely a lost one. Certainly, in comparison to the sometimes all-too-overbearing "we are ART!" stance from the Elephant 6 stable, Jane Pow worked with a smaller palette but to better end results. Poppy but not suffocatingly power pop, open to fun tweaks and twists in arrangements to show hints of everything from shoegaze guitar overdive to glammed-up strutting, Jane Pow make a virtue out of sunniness and energy. The trick is avoiding sounding cloying, and the band does its best make sure that's the case. There are some wry digs at the out-of-place status of the group to begin with -- thus "90s," an anti-love letter to the decade in particular -- and there's a lot on the disc that certainly succeeds most because of its obvious forebears from the Hollies to the Boo Radleys. Ultimately, though, it's those wonderfully quirky arrangements -- sudden stop-starts in rhythm that don't feel like prog-rock showoff nonsense, the way vocals first hide behind the music, then slide out front, the overall air of winning jauntiness -- that seal the deal. Muffled feedback settles into gentle acoustic sweetness just so, off-kilter dance beats -- sort of -- add to the fun chaos. "Soundbarrier" is a good demonstration of how it all works -- there's Beach Boys-circa-Pet Sounds piano, almost near-metal guitar rips in the chorus, merrily hyperactive keyboards early XTC could be proud of, sweetly soaring vocals glazed all gently over the top. That the whole song has a great extended coda makes the whole affair seem like a less dully familiar -- and more interesting -- equivalent of "Layla" for a younger generation.

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