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click to enlarge Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da

Madness

Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da

eOne Music

File next to: Squeeze, General Public

In the states, Madness had one brief brush with major success via its 1983 single "Our House." But the U.K. is a different story, where the group, despite a 1988-92 hiatus, retains its popularity as a source of often humorous, somewhat offbeat and entertaining pop. This 10th studio album shows there's plenty of life left in the group. "Misery" recaptures the spunk and catchiness of their early ska revivalism, while the remainder of the album echoes their later pop approach. The richly melodic mid-temp "Circus Freaks" is the album's clear standout track. "My Girl 2" adds a pleasantly bouncy Motown-ish feel. The group's melancholy side surfaces on the Bacharach-ish "Never Knew Your Name," which captures the feel of their British hit "It Must Be Love." And "Kitchen Floor" is darkly hued with a reggae lilt. Overall, this is one of the better efforts from a group that always deserved more stateside recognition than it's gotten. — Alan Sculley

click to enlarge Don't Lead With Your Heart

Stag

Stag

Fin Records

File next to: Cheap Trick, Big Star

Stag is a well-pedigreed band fronted by Steve Mack from That Petrol Emotion, the acclaimed U.K. group who influenced bands like Radiohead and the Stone Roses. So it makes sense that this new Seattle-based band's full-length debut doesn't sound like the work of rookies. It's classic guitar-based power-pop, with serious vocal hooks, catchy guitar riffs and crisp tempos. "Tiffany Rose" rocks hardest, while "These Times" soars on big, bright guitar riffs. Other highlights include "Chameleons" (a snappy rocker that may remind some of Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me"), "Ides of March" (an anthem with touches of Who-like majesty), and "Don't Lead With Your Heart" (which echoes the graceful melody and pop crunch of groups like Big Star and the Raspberries). Admittedly, Stag's style of power pop isn't that original. But with songs this catchy, energized and well crafted, that's not even an issue. — Alan Sculley

click to enlarge On Triple Beams

Tyvek

On Triple Beams

In the Red

File next to: Gang of Four, the Fall

While listening to On Triple Beams, words like primitive, rudimentary, ragged and unschooled immediately spring to mind. But those aren't necessarily bad things given the raucous mix of post-punk and garage rock that Tyvek makes. What makes it all work is the Detroit band's knack for writing big — albeit simple — melodic hooks that come through the shard-like guitar riffs on songs like "Returns," "Scaling" and "Wayne County Roads." There are also bashed-out drums and declamatory vocals that sweeten the mix in their own sharply barked-out way. It's all topped off by rather sludgy production in which the vocals slur and the guitars are rough and overdriven to the point of distortion. If you come to this album looking for polished production, evolved musicianship or complex lyrical expression, expect to be disappointed. But for a rocking, if sloppy, fun time, Tyvek has your number. — Alan Sculley

  • Madness, Stag and Tyvek

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