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By Michael Henningsen and Stewart Mason

SEPTEMBER 8, 1998: 

UVTransmission Transmission Received (Shag Records)

UVTransmission have never been shy about the incorporation of influences into their sound. The quartet have been successfully utilizing elements of Brit-pop since their inception, coupling that esthetic with their own brash--and decidedly American--brand of top fuel power-pop. With the release of Transmission Received, their debut full-length, UVTransmission have fleshed out an even more identifiable signature, based on well-structured twin guitar attack and confident song construction.

While the nine songs (10, counting the hidden track 13 minutes into the final song) that make up Transmission Received are determined, well-crafted efforts each in their own right--miles above the band's previous 7-inch offering--some of them tend toward overwrought length-wise. Even a brilliant hook can wear out its welcome over the course of four-plus minutes. But that said, hooks abound on Transmission Received. The relaxed, chiming Tommy James-ish "Let Me Turn you On (to a Little Love)" has its catchiness wrapped in charming harmonies, punctuated by thoughtful--if subtle--use of tremolo and open-chord strumming. "Having a Ball" and "Blue Tuesday" have all the makings of legendary pop songs, fueled by the melodic and rhythmic guitar work of Rob Urias and Mike Easton. Easton's fat, wide-bodied sound complements Urias's more straightforward solid body electric tone perfectly, which is no easy feat. The occasional appearance of organ (courtesy of bassist Matt Dickens) and complex arrangements ("She Don't Know," "Dreamland") add a unique flair to an already interesting record.

The vocals aren't as consistent as the guitar and rhythm section work, at times sounding a bit underconfident, but, overall, Transmission Received is a well-rounded, solid effort--representative of a band that is getting monumentally better with age. !!!! (MH)

Juliana Hatfield Bed (Zoe/Rounder)

Juliana Hatfield has weathered a particularly '90s style of stardom: massive indie credibility through her 1987-91 work with the Blake Babies and her first solo album, a breakout hit during the first flush of commercial alternative radio, a high-profile soundtrack placement and about the most abrupt and pointlessly vitriolic backlash I've seen this side of Courtney Love.

Nobody ever said Hatfield was stupid. After 1995's uneven, unfocused Only Everything, she withdrew for a couple of years, waiting for the hubbub to subside. Building on the artistic revitalization of last year's excellent Please Do Not Disturb EP, Hatfield's fifth solo record was recorded entirely without effects, reverb or digital processing, which gives it an immediacy she's lacked since 1992's Hey Babe.

The songs are equally compelling, recalling the ingenuous simplicity of the Blake Babies' best work, but with a stronger sense of melody and humor (both shown off in the sly classic-rock quotes of "Swan Song") and a newfound vocal approach focusing on Hatfield's purring middle register instead of the helium-filled shrieks that some felt marred her earlier records. Away from the media limelight of a half decade ago, Juliana Hatfield is making the best music of her career. !!!! (SM)

William Pears William Pears (Permanent Press)

The U.S. debut by France's William Pears (a curiously-named group, not a person) is a thoroughly delightful blend of solid pop songcraft, achingly sweet lighter-than-air melodies and lite-psych production touches. The lyrics are in English, which is unusual for a French pop band. Even France's bands with the highest international profiles, like Autour de Lucie, prefer to stick exclusively to la langue d'amour. (Compare this to the continent's other flourishing pop scene, Sweden, where Komeda were thought insane when they recorded their first two albums in the intoxicating native tongue instead of English.) The jangling opening track, "Sound Advice," gently mocks this isolationist tendency.

That out of the way, the lyrics are hazy and lighthearted in the best psych-pop tradition, but with knowing nods at pop history and iconography: Song titles like "Johnny Rotten," "Jesus and the Beatles" and "Surfin' Euskadi" point the way. The music recalls all the usual suspects: Zombies, '66-'68 Kinks, Gary Zekley, the Creation, the Association and bits of Smile and Revolver. If you like the Apples In Stereo, the Dukes of Stratosphear, Cornelius, Chrys&themums or the Orange Peels, meet your newest favorite band. This is wimp-pop at its finest. !!!! (SM)

--Michael Henningsen and Stewart Mason

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