The Revenge of pOp*stAr*kiDs

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The Pop*Star*Kids keep on keeping on with their third album, finding a blend of snot-pop sass and technology that actually sounds, strange to say, a bit retro. But perhaps that's more a matter of perception than anything else -- in a time when the even more self-consciously forward-into-the-past sounds of say, the White Stripes or the Darkness get all the attention, who is to say what is too out of time? No question, either, that the band's gotten darned good with the resulting puree of a slew of English influences from the '60s to the '90s; in a world where Gary Numan and Menswear mean more than the Beatles and the Stones, and where crediting one member with ProTools is a recognition that it's the 21st century, regardless. The synth riffs that open up "People Make Me Lonely" is either delicious Pleasure Principle-snarl, or loving electroclash homage -- or both -- but the high overdubbed vocals and bubbly guitar snarls bespeak something else, specifically the type of pop/rock catchiness that isn't in the post-blink-182 vein. Many songs focus more on the rocked-up end of things, but with their own specific high points -- the solid, slow glam thwack of Clancy's drums on "Fan Club" (as well as the percussion breakdown at the end), the bell-like chimes under the chorus of "Kelly Scale Down," the near-industrial verses on the appropriately titled "Dance Like the Dead." The giddy rush of vocals on many songs becomes its own reward -- the cascade of "yeah yeah yeahs" on "Love Is Burning in Yr Garden" -- the way the voices almost glaze into the guitars on "Did You Do Something Cool?" Bit it's the trading-off of the sometimes swaggering and sometimes winsome singing between all the members that might actually be the band's secret weapon.

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