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Reviews of new CDs by Sool, The Fountains, The Dandy Warhols and JoDee Messina.

Now Hear This

Sool, "Stereorrific," (Sool/Stereorrific Recordings) — As the latest "stereorrific" project from producer/musician Pete Weiss, the group Sool harks back to a time when skirts were short, gas was cheap and innovations in rock music were happening daily. With cohorts Kevin Quinn and Neal Spaulding, the three members of Sool create a neo-psychedelic pop record that would sit well as the soundtrack for any B movie involving Hell's Angels, go-go dancers or psychopathic cult leaders. The most agreeable songs on the record are the ones that most closely parallel the '60s pop of bands such as the Beatles ("Laughing Under A Tree") and the Monkees ("Trying Not To Give It All Away"). "Free Mason" is another neat cut, sounding like it's straight out of a session at Sun Studio. Other tunes are less subtle, bordering on the nether regions of early Pink Floyd. Since "Stereorrific" was released this year, and not in 1967 as you might believe after hearing it, the album is perfect for anyone looking for new music that keeps the spirit of that era alive.

— Angelo DeFranzo

The Fountains, "Diamond Wheel" — So you're having one of those down-in-the-dumps days? Just slip The Fountains into the CD player and I guarantee the blues don't stand a chance, because this Athens-based quartet is an affirming harmonious inspiration to hear. Frontmen Gary and Jeffrey Andrews do most of the writing and singing, and they're both blessed with great vocal chops and ears for harmony. They also know how to stay lyrically upbeat and on a spiritual path without preaching. Throughout the CD's 12 cuts their optimism in the face of struggle is a most pleasant turn. The bad times of "Leaving Salem" are balanced by the certainty that there are "better days ahead" and "This Christmas" rocks with the reminder of the importance of owning up to faith and love. "I'm Back" is a fond look at going home to family, while "Diamond Wheel" tells of the connections shared by all humanity. Rhythmically rooted by bassist Andrew Robinson and drummer Jeremy Allen, the band mixes fine-line harmonies, electric crunch and acoustic gentleness to make powerful and passionate music. These guys are truly a breath of fresh air and deserve to be heard.

— Ames Arnold

The Dandy Warhols, "Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia" (Capitol) - Singer/guitarist Courtney Taylor (now Taylor-Taylor) once envisioned the Dandys as a cross between Galaxie 500 and T. Rex, which sums up the sonic landscape on "Thirteen Tales": catchy chords played with the pouty-lipped attitude of mid-'70s glam rock.

Minus any of the originality of either of those bands, but hey, whatever. That's not a knock, not when the Dandys admit they just want to rock.

"Solid" is three minutes of classic glam/pop that wouldn't be out of place on a mid-'80s Stones or Bowie record. "Godless" builds with a wash of horns evoking a "Love is All Around" vibe that is, for some odd reason, spooky and pretty at the same time.

The rest of the record consists of five-minute-plus pop songs, recycling the same couple of chords over and over Velvets-style, though about 10 times more polished. There's even a country-twang number probably meant to call Beck or Pavement to mind.

Thematically and soundwise, the album reinforces the Dandys' self-described image as up-all-night fast-laners. In other words, ideal background music for those parties filled with wall-to-wall supermodels and expensive pharmaceuticals. Or for sitting around fantasizing about them.

— Chris Grier, The Virginian-Pilot

JoDee Messina, "Burn," (Curb) — Nashville keeps tinkering with this singer's image hoping to stumble on the package that will nudge Messina into the superstar stratosphere. This time around she is some sort of sultry, wet-look hot mama. But you've got to have something more than image because the only thing memorable about this Tim McGraw-produced effort is its striking mediocrity. Full of stupid lyrics such as "I'm just going through a little downtime" and "you gotta' roll with the punches" and "burn for me baby like a candle in the night," the 11 cuts go nowhere, say nothing and even lack much melodic sense. Slick and pointless, the songs blur one into the other with the vengeance of the most cynical of commercial projects. This latest Messina go-around is Music City at its most shameless. Of course, no one is holding a gun to her head through all of this, but she strikes me as someone with talent. Maybe a producer could give her good songs that don't contain lines such as "there are times I want what I want 'cause I want it." Just let the lady sing something that doesn't make a listener laugh out loud. Now there's a new idea.

— A.A.

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