The Hang Ups

Second Story

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The Hang Ups are a pretty good power pop group that has really turned a corner -- and how. Enlisting the talents of Don Dixon and Mitch Easter to produce a more advanced work, the Minnesota group have smoothed out some of the more rag-tag edges of their earlier LPs, while somehow increasing in scope, power, proficiency, and most of all, vision. This is a lovely work of art, rare in these days when we keep being told the guitar doesn't count for much any more. "Caroline" brims with stargazing instead of shoegazing, all hushed wonder over a peaceful night and the chattering of brooks. Brian Tighe's nice-guy vocals are the perfect complement, all relaxed but open to experience. Somehow, his clear-voiced, pleasant crooning serves whatever song is being played, especially on those moments where they morph into the most dangerous power pop group since the Frosting on the Beater Posies. These songs may be a bit of a textbook on the early '70s form -- thunderous, brick-heavy chords that fit tight riffs over booming floor-tom beats, sing-song melodies with big "ba ba ba" falsetto choruses -- but even these trad moments have double impact, thanks to the variety on display. When they feel like it, this suddenly-veteran quintet can build a whole song out of a lugubrious piano, a folky guitar and an antiquated harpsichord, the beautiful bowing of a sonorous violin, or McCartney-esque ringing pop, and make the whole thing hang together. Clearly influenced by the great works of late-'60s Kinks and other thinking man's pop groups that excelled despite such a wide grasp, the Hang Ups have made an LP that wouldn't be embarrassed in the company of their antecedents.

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