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The Pop Project

Stars of Stage and Screen

(Suburban Sprawl; US: 17 Jun 2008; UK: 13 Oct 2008)

Whether railing against pop culture (“House of Books”), lamenting the musician’s life (“Never Got the Breaks”) or extolling underage girls (“Hearts and Flowers”), the Pop Project deliver goofy, oafishly charming songs: full of shiny harmonies, off-kilter time signatures and out-of-nowhere surprises. Despite three distinct lead vocalists, certain motifs (dating someone who’s not a soulmate, overcoming high school ostracization) recur, and their freak-flag-flying, underdog-rallying geekery can grow precious. Lyrics like “Now I’m the bug you wanna hug”, or the fake-country excursion “Another Kind of Love” unearth a counterintuitive cute side, like unloved children trying any trick to gain approval. Sometimes those tricks are truly magical, and the Pop Project recalls Hot Chip with self-effacing hooks in place of self-conscious grooves, or Weezer without the arrogance. It’s a fun listen, with forceful, ingratiating choruses that go against the current minor-key indie tide, but it’s too slight and desperate to be especially memorable.

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