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Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Multifaceted purist pop

Posted By on Wed, Feb 2, 2000 at 12:00 AM

Turn that frown upside down; drop your musical preconceptions and assault your senses with Pedals, the third album from Chicago’s ultralounge, modern-pop outfit, the Aluminum Group. This is the jazziest and most seductive confection of purist pop gems I’ve heard in a long time – sunshine shimmering guitars, classic crooning, peppy horn arrangements, breezy bossa nova-ish beats and sweeping strings. A truly magical audio odyssey led by the Navin brothers and featuring performances by the ultracool Jim O’Rourke, Sean O’Hagan (High Llamas), Edith Frost and Amy Warren, to name but a few.

Rarely do I wax lyrical, but every song involves either complex harmonies and / or instrumentation made even more interesting by unexpected tempo changes and creative sound experimentation, yet remains true to the guiding principle of good pop – simple, lighthearted, catchy and never shallow. "Paperback" epitomizes this idea. On the surface, it’s a lackadaisical mockery of the boy who crushed your heart with lyrics delivered through Amy Warren’s sumptuous vocals. Underneath, it’s a complex range of emotions and soundscapes.

From the charmingly sassy "Rrose Selavy’s Valise," to the heated "$35," Pedals easily impresses, expressing the romance of Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto’s "Girl from Ipanema." Don’t believe me? Just turn off that cheesy poof pop-soul prince or princess polluting the airwaves and immerse yourself in all 10 of these songs.

Admitted lovers of what Frank Navin calls the "high pop radio sound" of the ‘60s and ‘70s (i.e. Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb), what the musicians in Aluminum Group don’t admit to – or perhaps don’t recognize – is a minimalist Kraftwerk spirit, especially evident in "Lie Detector Test."

It works. Pedals works. Complicated to create, but oh-so easy to appreciate.

A.J. Duric writes about music for the Metro Times. E-Mail


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