That astroPuppees have a strong following in Japan is no surprise. The charts in the Land of the Rising Sun smile favorably on effective bubble-gum pop. And given that astroPuppees deliver their Dubble-Bubble with an edge, all the better.
Lest you think Im denigrating the group, Ill say this loud and clear: I love this disc. Yes, you do hear a twinge of surprise in my voice. I simply was not expecting that nearly every track would make me bob my head and tap my foot. Probably a more apt description of the music is bubble-gum indie rock. Think Go-Gos in their early days. Think Liz Phair, but not as spotty. Think Veruca Salt, their good songs.
In this second astroPuppees release, singer/songwriter Kelley Ryan is again joined by Maureen Serrao on bass and vocals, and John Oreshnick on drums. Guest musicians include the venerable Marshall Crenshaw, playing a great six-string bass on "Angelica," a nifty tune that has been covered by Japanese pop artist Yuko Yamagucci. As perhaps in-kind payment for his contribution, astroPuppees include a strong cover of Crenshaws "Crowded House" on Pet.
The musicianship throughout the disc is clean and highly competent, with some truly inspired spots. "Woo Hoo Hoo" has one of the best openings Ive heard since Blurs "Song 2." The bass line on "Wanna Be Alone," while not approaching the complex brilliance of Elvis Costello and the Attractions "Lipstick Vogue," is stupendous. Since the demise of The Police, its seldom that a pop-rock song provides a bass line with real panache. The band uses harmonic chords in "13 Seconds" and buzzsaw guitars in the cheeky "Speed Walking College Girls," both with great effectiveness and proficiency.
The instrument that really shines, though, is Ryans voice. I say this as an avowed feminist and with nothing but respect -- this chick can wail! She has a voice that is highly emotive, crystal clear, and raw all at the same time. She can harmonize, she can screech, she can carry a damn fine tune.
And theres lyrical gold in here too. The first track, "15 Seconds," immediately made me sit up and listen in:
"I went to Catholic School, I learned to tell the
priest my stories
Most of the songs cover old territory -- love lost, love gained, love that sucks -- but Ryans writing puts new twists on the old stories. "Wanna Be Alone" is actually quite poignant:
"Every time you let me down, I pick myself up off the
You can keep the photographs, the girl who always tried to
Ouch. I ache for you Kelley.
astroPuppees have gotten some exposure through television and movie soundtracks, and made it onto the college-radio charts. This is promising, and Id love to see astroPuppees in the CD racks at the local Best Buy. Kelley Ryan and crew deserve nothing less. Excuse me, but Im going out to find the bands debut, You Win The Bride. If its half as fun as Pet, Im in for a great time.
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