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Album Review

Those old enough to have heard it for a few decades get a bit bored when presented with a new group so immersed in the '60s that there is little suspicion of contemporary influence. On this, their second LP, Vancouver's Saturnhead not only pretend no time has elapsed since Lyndon Johnson was prez, but their touring lineup even dresses in snappy, anachronistic mod suits. (If the '60s bands people admire had felt similarly, they would have recorded only 1930s-style torch songs!) Nevertheless, this is a commendatory LP, thanks to singer/writer and sole recording member Terry Miles' obvious knack. Using '90s-sounding production (the also-saving-grace of likeminded good folks such as the Lilys and Zumpano, or Britpop bands like Blur), Miles ladles out one vivacious melody after another. Like the also classical Englishman Martin Newell of Cleaners from Venus, before you can chide him for his Rutles/Dukes of Stratosphere nostalgia (Miles even pays lyrical homage to the Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing" on "What About Love"), you're swimming in the step-bounce of boppy grooves such as "San Francisco Suites" and the standout "N.Y. Philospophy," complete with their flourishing arrangements. Imagine the Move's "Blackberry Way," the Beatles' "Penny Lane," the Kinks' "Autumn Almanac," and the Hollies' "Then the Heartaches Begin," and you anticipate the mood. In England 1995/1996, Britpop was a commercial move, a means to climb the charts borrowing a formula, so old younger fans today have never heard its source. In North America, vigilant '60s pop seems more a reaction to the lack of songwriting and hooks — as well as the stultifying guitar rock predictability of commercial alternative and indie rock these days. The piano (and toy piano), the acoustics, door chimes, cowbell, timpani, and backing harmonies are all employed as signs of the too-reverent, but for all the right reasons. And there's talent here, too.

Saturnhead, California, Saturnhead
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