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You Am I
Hourly, Daily
(Sire Records)

You Am I is a Sydney, Australia, trio that has achieved an oddly impressive distinction during its six-year history: It has somehow managed to build a zealous American fan base without actually releasing anything in America. Hourly, Daily, its third album (following hard-to-find imports on labels like Timberyard and RooArt) was released a year ago in the band's homeland, but only now is it within reach of our collective mitts. As such, it's more than a first-rate collection of retro-pop clamor -- it's a belated stateside introduction to one of the most endearing bands on the planet.

You Am I exhibits such mastery of that inexhaustible late-Sixties Brit-pop jangle that it makes you question your motivations even as you sway your head to every sing-along chorus. Singer/guitarist Tim Rogers, the band's only original member, even looks like a digital morph of Ray Davies and Pete Townshend. This mod from Down Under displays considerable chutzpah in building the ebullient "Mr. Milk" around the bridge to XTC's "Senses Working Overtime" and goes so far as to ape that tune's background woo-woos. Just to push the audacity meter into the red, Rogers fades out with chiming "A Hard Day's Night" arpeggios.

Try searching for a dud among this album's power-pop nuggets and you'll come up emptier than Geraldo at Capone's vault. "Good Mornin'" may be a by-the-numbers chronicle of a working day, but hooks like this don't sprout on every tunesmith's fretboard. And the title song is the kind of achingly beautiful acoustic-cum-string-section track that Noel Gallagher was shooting for with "Wonderwall."

You Am I is a band that you'll fall in love with instantly, then spend hours debating in your mind: Is this music as good as it seems, or does it merely remind us of rock's young and innocent days? What is the value of a band that so skillfully re-creates the vibe of great recordings when those recordings are still in print? You can try building a case against such retro aesthetics, but eventually you'll succumb. A mere band can be resisted, but You Am I is a walking Poptopia festival.

-- Gilbert Garcia

Candy Dulfer
For the Love of You
(N2K Encoded Music)

While the Barbie doll of the 21st Century has changed her bodily proportions, the music of Candy Dulfer shows you what Barbie might sound like if she were a Dutch saxophonist corrupted by Minneapolis funk. For the Love of You is Candy Dulfer's fourth solo release and the most recent addition to an impressive musical resume. The Amsterdam native has worked with Prince, Aretha Franklin, Living Colour, Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, and David Sanborn.

And yet Dulfer is not squeamish about going straight for the pop jugular. For the Love of You comprises eleven full-blown grooves whose vocal arrangements and funkified production recall the work of her mentor, his Royal Purpleness. Dulfer opens the title track with nine minutes of slap and snapped bass groove, then downshifts into a deep grind. For this Isley Brothers cover, she spices the groove with a dizzy guitar riff, synthesized keyboards, spoken poetry, and a soulful harmonized vocal refrain. Dulfer follows with "Smooth," a straight instrumental whose whistling synthesizer calls to mind the melodic confections of the West Coast rap establishment. The boom-bap drum track of "Give Me Some More," which mimics a more corporeal form of friction, demonstrates how thoroughly Dulfer has cottoned to Prince's libidinous grooves. The grooves, in turn, serve as unlimited vamps for Dulfer's unobtrusive sax solos.

Unfortunately, these solos are often a bit too unobstrusive. While her horn playing is sexy in a languorous way, it rarely dazzles. Fortunately, her devotion to the low-end is enough to send the unwitting listener sailing into a McDonald's drive-thru. If that ain't special sauce, I don't know what is.

-- Victor Cruz

Bush
Deconstructed
(Trauma)

It's rather poignant how desperate Gavin Rossdale and his minions are for respect. For the act's previous package, Razorblade Suitcase, they hired producer Steve Albini, a man even Kurt Cobain thought was too extreme at times. Now, on Deconstructed, the lads have lined up every hotshot studio jockey on the A-list to make their iffy tunes as current as trip-hop. Since the first step toward a strong mix is strong material, this task was a difficult one, but a few dial-twisters were able to come up with some intriguing concoctions anyhow -- especially those who took the quite logical step of tossing out as much of the songs as they could. "Swallowed" becomes a moody but still danceable sonic slab after being overhauled by Goldie and Rob Playford; "In a Lonely Place" is infused with creepiness by Tricky; and "Everything Zen" is completely subsumed in beats and beeps cooked up by Derek DeLarge. (A second, far less drastic variation on "Everything Zen," refurbished by Greg Brimson and Pete Coyte, leads off the disc.)

Despite such exertions, this undertaking remains a waste of time -- the sort of thing record companies put out for no reason other than to assuage bruised egos. Why? Because people who actually like Bush are apt to hate the changes, and people who don't like Bush will see Deconstructed as the vanity project it is and leave it on the store shelves. Coming soon to a cut-out bin near you.

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