The Strange Underworld of the Tall Poppies

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On their first album for Germany's Marina Records, singer/songwriter David Scott and keyboardist Brian McAlpine offered a welcome antidote to the sound-alike power pop that proliferated in the '90s. Joined by a drummer and string section, the Scottish duo mined many of the same influences (Beatles, Brian Wilson) as their competitors, yet offered melodies and hooks that were reverent but never rip-offs. Overall, Strange Poppies doesn't quite reach the brilliance Scott would later attain on the band's Across the Milky Way, but there are certainly a few songs as good as that album's best. "Cherry Sky" is a near-flawless concoction that follows Beach Boys-style choruses with a chorus straight out of the Fab's psychedelic era (complete with "Penny Lane" fire bells). The lovely "Sugar Mountain Babies," meanwhile, owes not a little to McCartney's gentle side, and the jangly "Banana Sandwich" has all the fresh-faced glory of Scottish popsters past, like Aztec Camera or the Bluebells. Other than a couple of lesser tracks, like "Night Breeze," the remainder of the disc is simply high-quality, handsomely performed, and hummable pop you'd be foolish to pass up.

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