Larger than life

In some bizarre Brit-pop alternative universe, the Atomic Numbers are huge rock stars. Scores of go-go-booted teen queens are queuing up for their latest record release at the mall. High school jocks in Podunk, Idaho are sneering, De Niro-style, vainly copping drummer Matt Aljian’s wiseguy grin. And the boys in the band are headlining silver-glittered dance halls across the land, as their debut, Electromotive, muscles its way to the toppermost of the pop charts.

Of course, reality is a lot less fun. Instead, we get the Backstreet Boys and Britney. Sure, the Atomic Numbers’ brand of hard, Cockney pop isn’t really kid stuff anymore. But it’s a damn shame the fickle whims of adolescent taste can’t clear some room at the top. "Sorry about the fashion, but I didn’t know what year it was," sings frontman Tim McHugh on "fashion money lovesong," almost by way of apology. It’s understandable – the record’s thick, pre-disco harmonies don’t exactly scream new millennium.

But don’t think Beatles. Think Badfinger. In fact, Electromotive echoes the best secret pop gems of your record collection. "I Don’t Want to Go Out, I Don’t Wanna Stay Home" recalls the caffeinated bop of Magazine-era Television. "Superexcitable" kicks like resurrected Mark Bolan. Elsewhere, you’ll find hints of the Attractions, early Joe Jackson and even your treasured stack of Ziggy Stardust B-sides.

But rather than rehash, Electromotive is that rare pop record that blends familiar ingredients to make something fresh. Co-produced by Brian Vander Ark of the million-selling Verve Pipe, Electromotive serves-up the Atomic Numbers as Detroit’s great power-pop hope.

Will it work? You never know. "I wanna be a sell-out," admits McHugh on the album’s second track. Oh, what a beautiful world it would be if he gets the chance.

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