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Pop tart CD reviews

Daily Staff ReportVail, CO, Colorado
Avril Lavigne's "The Best Damn Thing."
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Hey Mickey was a No. 1 hit for Toni Basil in 1982; now Avril Lavigne has repackaged it for a younger generation.Lavignes version is called Girlfriend, but with the same beat and lyrical cadence, shes not fooling anyone. Like Basils tune, Girlfriend is relentlessly catchy, if a tad more surly as Lavigne sneers, Hey, you, I dont like your girlfriend. Among her rivals chief flaws: Shes like, so whatever.Although Lavigne is 22 now, her constituency remains reformed shin-kickers with crushes on the cute, slightly dim boy in homeroom.That poor kid cant catch a break: She hates him on I Can Do Better, pines for him on When Youre Gone and proclaims his sweetness on the gushy power-ballad Hot.The songwriting is weaker than on her previous two albums, though there are plenty of sugary pop hooks and a slick, punked-up guitar sound that exists solely in $1,000-a-day recording studios. Girlfriend isnt the only musical homage: Thumpy beats on the title track mimic any number of Black Eyed Peas tunes, and the careening guitars on Everything Back But You would have fit on American Idiot if Green Day had been railing at boys instead of politicians.Still, evoking other peoples chart-topping tunes is a savvy bid to duplicate Lavignes earlier commercial success, even if The Best Damn Thing is, like, so whatever. Eric R. Danton, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

Richard X. Heymans decision to finally finish recording his 1983 debut invites comparisons to Brian Wilsons great lost-and-then-found Smile. Thats fortuitous: Heyman not only has played with the Beach Boys resident genius, his underappreciated body of work spread over four lovely albums proves hes a true heir to Wilsons mantle, amid an ocean of pretenders.But its that songwriting skill, and not the novel circumstances behind the belated creation of Actual Sighs, that make this such a noteworthy event. Newcomers should begin with Hoosier, which appears alongside the rest of the EP salvaged from the first album sessions. The song is as perfect a piece of power-pop as this country ever produced, the freshness of its harmonies and the pain of its longing undiminished almost a quarter-century later.The 14 newly recorded tracks, however, benefit from old friend Ed Stasiums full-blooded production, are a different sort of revelation. These tunes in particular Kenyon Walls and All in the Way You Found Me show that Heymans pop sophistication dates way back, and the blues and gospel leanings mostly submerged on later efforts offer a welcome reminder of his 1960s R&B roots. Theres only one rational response to hearing this album: buying the others as soon as possible. Dan LeRoy, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.

Clorox Girls, three guys from Portland, Ore., have a thing for motorcycle jackets and skinny ties a look that tells you just about everything you need to know about their throwback sound.The trios music is unmistakably rooted in the late 70s, a time when punk rock was often indistinguishable from power-pop, and the Undertones, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, and the Buzzcocks were coming into their own.The Girls arent quite as good as their legendary forefathers, but they invoke a long-lost brand of punk that is rugged yet tuneful; aggressive yet, in spots, charmingly unsure of itself.On Looking at You, a cross between Cheap Trick and any number of 60s garage bands, singer Justin Maurer proves hes too polite to be a punk, warning his would-be love, whos hooked up with another guy, Youve got a vampire in your bed/ please be aware.Hands-off production makes this disc even more of a treat, as the instruments never sound as if theyve been run through supercomputers and digitally wiped of all imperfections.Instead, the drums thump and the guitars crackle, and in the best possible sense, the album sounds like it should have gone out of print about 25 years ago. Kenneth Partridge, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service



Pam Tillis has covered a lot of territory in 20 years of nibbling at pop, R&B and other genres. Yet she has always kept one foot in her family business, a country music legacy she affirmed with an exceptional 2002 collection interpreting her father Mels songs. Rhinestoned is a smartly repurposed slice of the past with modern vitality and becoming personality.Tillis embraces traditional foundations, from the charming, homespun storytelling of Bettin Money on Love to a supple, shimmering stroll through the torchy Something Burning Out. In the jaunty Band in the Window and the robust John Anderson duet Life Has Sure Changed Us Around, shes more interested in hauling the best aspects of country song craft into the present than lamenting their loss to the past.Small touches on the disc are subdued but eclectic, be it the mild Celtic leanings of Over My Head or the cool clarinet that punches up the catchy Crazy by Myself. Tillis voice offers more finesse than power, but impressive vocal texture distinguishes the elegant ballad Someone Somewhere Tonight and the personality-rich, banjo-laced Down by the Water, making a case for throwback values in each with passion and class. Thomas Kintner, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service


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