Shiny, happy heartbreaker

The Fletcher Pratt’s neo-mod style has been polished to brilliant perfection on its first full-length release. A British pop label seems a good match for a band with strong Beatles-Kinks influences and a tendency to start off songs with a Who-style guitar explosion. The band has a strong personality of its own, though — a bright, punky pop attitude shines through from its rock-hard center.

Among the 15 carefully crafted tunes are remakes of those found on the Slumber Party Highs EP, including “Sugar Won’t Let You Sleep,” “Satellite” and “Electrocute!”

Clever wordplay and sly humor run wild through the infectious melodies. Stephen Palmer and George Dubber share duties on the fiercely earnest vocals, backed up by jingle-jangle guitar, winsome harmonies, tambourines and keyboards.

But it’s not all sweetness and light. “Liberated” is a gorgeous heartbreaker — a Lennon-esque meditation on lost love. A mysterious darkness seeps out of “Lucy and the Train Back” (reminiscent of the seductive noir composed by Elvis Costello in “Watching the Detectives”).

The most interesting facet of this recording is the four-song track at the end of the album. The band felt these songs weren’t yet ready to stand on their own, so they were strung together as a long medley. Whether planned or not, it’s a lovely collection which, as it segues from one song to the next, becomes a sort of miniature rock opera. The first song evokes sorrow over the beginnings of a breakup, which turns into dark thoughts of revenge, then tired resignation and, finally, an anthemic revival of hope.

Nine by Nine contains a perfect mix of artful melody and raw energy, retro style and modern freshness. It’s a sparkling effort all around.

Karen Fisher is MT's information coordinator. E-mail her at [email protected].

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