The history of re-formed legends reclaiming old greatness on record is slim. And this incredible, original-era Vancouver punk/power pop quintet was gone 25 years, 1981-2006. How stunning, then, that Three is actually better than their only previous LP, 1980's flawed Perfect Youth (reissued in 2005), recapturing the irrepressible exuberance of killer early singles (see 2006's indispensable Waiting for the Real Thing). How could 50-somethings sound so, well, 20? Ponder that as we might, the cliché "picked up where they left off" is shockingly inarguable. Sure, it's key that all five originals return (first single drummer Ian Tiles rejoining singer Nick Jones, guitarist Bill Napier-Hemy, bassist Tony Bardach, and keyboardist Gord Nicholl), but who sprinkled the fountain of punk youth on their Weetabix? "North America's answer to the Undertones" (Jello Biafra) churn out their meaty, rushing, highly melodic, enormously infectious guitar pop, and Jones is still master of lovelorn heartsick lyrics, like the prototypical "Too Late" and the pleasant new wrinkle piano 'n' strings "How I Felt." (Although the wild opener "She's Not Alone Anymore" explores single female empowerment, and the Sonics-like closer "On Fire" is unbridled optimism.) Surprise of the year? Are you kidding?
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