The Cucumbers

Total Vegetility

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Only the Cucumbers' fourth album in nearly 20 years, 1999's Total Vegetility, finds Deena Shoskes and Jon Fried doing what they've done so well all that time: crisp, smart guitar pop tunes with a bouncy new wave feel akin to a female-led version of the early dB's. Unlike 1987's The Cucumbers (and to a lesser extent, 1994's Where We Sleep Tonight), these songs are quite sympathetically produced, with none of the inappropriate slickness that marred the previous records. As always, Shoskes' appealing, helium-pitched vocals and the pair's twangy guitars are at the heart of the songs (also as always, the handful of songs sung by Fried are less appealing), with the careening, swooning opener, "My Birthday," and the moody, strikingly memorable "8500 Million Miles," with its woozy, double-tracked vocals, adding a newfound dose of psychedelia to the proceedings. None of the songs are as immediately appealing as the Cucumbers' classic debut single, "My Boyfriend," but this is probably their strongest and most consistent set of tunes.

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