The Sugarplastic

Radio Jejune

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It's difficult for L.A. pop trio the Sugarplastic to escape comparisons to XTC. (Not only does guitarist Ben Eshbach's voice raise memories of Andy Partridge, bassist Kiara Geller even looks a bit like Colin Moulding.) While their 1995 debut, Radio Jejune, isn't as blatant as the following year's Bang! The Earth Is Round, which might as well be subtitled Drums and Wires part two, the XTC comparison stands. So do comparisons to Squeeze and the Monochrome Set. Nevertheless, these are all fine bands, and at no point do the Sugarplastic stoop to simple mimicry. Eshbach's a gifted songwriter with a knack for nervy, tension-building verses that shift into hooky choruses, giving the album as a whole a tension-and-release feel akin to the late-'70s new wave/pop that's the band's clear primary influence. Eshbach's lyrics are that rarity -- lyrics that actually deserve to be printed in the CD booklet; quirky without being self-conscious, the lyrics are full of clever rhymes, wordplay, and interesting images, and the combination of the ultra-clever lyrics and jittery tunes makes Radio Jejune a must for fans of smart, sophisticated power pop.

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