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The Experience began in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1984, with members James Laing, David Yetton, David Mulcahy, and Gary Sullivan deciding to share songwriting duties equally. The blend has proved worthy of worldwide consumption many times since.

Bleeding Star does not change that. "Into You" kicks in with the powerful, hypnotic, ambient guitar sounds the band's known for, with great pop melodies skipping across the top. "Ray of Sunshine" glides through a kaleidoscopic journey into the realm of bop and vibrato blues.

Their brand of guitars/melodies moves the Earth again in "I Believe In You" A big waves with Day-Glo tubes, easily surfed by these old pros. They shift to a meteor shower of crashing guitars in "Spaceman," soaring off until they wind out of sight. Proving they can strip the production down, JPSE goes acoustic in "Still Can't Be Seen." And the title track proves these guys can stand with the heavies of the rock world -- a monster tune.

Look to the blue, blue sky. Look toward New Zealand. Or just go to your local mom-and-pop and demand they order you this CD.

By J.C. Herz

Sick of waiting for the next Hothouse Flowers album? It's here. Except it's by a Manchester band called James, which couldn't sound less like a band from Manchester. James exudes an honest, acoustic, dirt-under-me-fingernails-and-love-in-the-heart vibe more appropriate to Ireland or Australia or some Arcadian sheep ranch in New Zealand, not the smoggy industrial dinge-pits of northern England. Tim Booth's lead vocals are poised between Liam O Maonlai's resonance and Morrissey's plaintiveness, and Brian Eno's production is, for the most part, spare and tasteful.

Occasionally, the album does veer into anthemic bombast A the feverish guitar strumming, the wash of backup vocals, the bare bulb of naked emotion, etc. But that's excusable, considering the album's Great Themes quotient. It's liltingly thick with true love, death, and redemption A songs like "One of the Three," a new wave hymn, and "Five-O," which asks the big scary questions about lifelong commitment. Altogether, Laid is a rather sober and poetic album whose spiritual depth belies its title. It'll sooner have you walking in the rain than dancing in your underwear.

The Spelvins
Whichever Train Comes
By J. C. Herz

Attention, fans of the Three-Minute Pop Song. There are no, repeat, no extended remixes or maxi-jams on the Spelvins Whichever Train Comes. There are, however, ten tracks of trains and rains and don't-you-love-me-any-more songs that ooze black-clad, cigarette-smoking cool. Composed of songwriter/guitarist John Keaney, bassist/keyboardist Dave Bondy, drummer Drew Vogelman, and a vocalist called Bird, the Spelvins's tragi-catchy new wave sound suggests they were pitched into 1993 by an Eighties high school science experiment gone haywire. After listening to pasty-faced blues like "Looking for a Cab in the Rain," you can't believe these boys didn't crawl out from under some northern English rock. And "Love Letter" would've dovetailed smoothly into any early Smiths album ("I put pen to paper last night/Then put a match to the written word/Clever allusions didn't come out right/I read it back and now it sounds absurd").

Fortunately, an exuberant rave-up of Arthur Alexander's obscure R&B gem "The Girl that Radiates that Charm" and shamelessly melodic tunes like "Ride" keep the Spelvins from miring themselves in melancholy. Chalk it up to Bondy's thick bass line, or the fact that Bird occasionally breaks from Morrissey into Pee-wee Herman. In any case, break out your old pointy shoes. The Spelvins will get them tapping.

The Bodeans
Go Slow Down
By J. C. Herz

What's amazing about the latest Bodeans album is not that the Lynyrd-Feat- Allman-Mac school of roots rock is alive in 1993, or even that it's done well. It's that the Bodeans, a supposedly alternative band, perform this Cougar/Springsteen-type material apparently with a total lack of irony. It's like, "Go directly to Classic Rock. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Just sing that flat-out earnest, pedal down, bridge-right-where-you-expect-it rock and roll and forget that punk, new wave, or rap ever happened."

Produced by T-Bone Burnett, Go Slow Down is a well-executed Seventies simulacrum, but campy nevertheless. The Bodeans hammer home fist-in-the-air Boss anthems like "Feed the Fire" ("Lay down, lay down, lay down, and feed the fi-hire!"), cigarette-lighter ballads like "Cold Winter's Day," and lots of hooky choruses. "She's so fine, yeah," (up to the predictable three chord), "She's so fine. She's so fi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yine." Deadpan. If you've been anywhere near techno, goth, or grunge lately, this track will have you in stitches, before it makes you want to dig out the (old) bell-bottoms, put on the tunes, and pour a little Riunite on ice.

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