Pop Charmers

The string arrangements were in fact written by David Campbell, Beck's dad.

Deliciously unfashionable, Blinker the Star's major-label debut is a sweet

mix of orchestral pop and rounded-edge post-punk. Their influences are too

many to name, but a partial list might include XTC (in both their edgier

moments and on somber ballads), Todd Rundgren, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry ... once you get started, it's hard to stop.

Singer /guitarist/ songwriter Jordon Zadorozny has come up with 12 meaty,

sticky songs. There's nothing bashed-out sounding about any of August

Everywhere — indeed, every song sounds pored over, lovingly

brought to life, with sharp countermelodies and clever arrangements.

"Below the Sliding Doors" (RealAudio excerpt) is a good intro to the album as a whole. A song

that would have been at home on XTC's Nonsuch, "Sliding Doors"

doesn't have a hair out of place as the chorus weaves Zadorozny's soaring

falsetto around the steady thump of Kellii Scott's drums and the strings'

upward motion. If the earnestness of "Sliding Doors" grates, then leave the

rest of the record alone, because it's pretty indicative of what's to come.

There doesn't seem to be an ironic bone in August's body, in fact.

It's so heartfelt that even the most sincere listener might need a rest. If

anything, that quality, combined with the overplayed bombast of a song like

"Right Kind of Girl" (RealAudio excerpt), is the record's Achilles' heel. Still, it's hard to

fault Zadorozny for feeling too much — at least there's backbone to

his sentiment, as opposed

to the empty emoting of the current crop of boy bands and R&B

crooners.

It remains to be seen if people are much interested in a record that sounds

more like Rundgren's A Wizard, a True Star or XTC's Mummer

than Baby One More Time. Blinker the Star's smart, complex

arrangements and hooky yet nonobvious songwriting are their real virtues,

and even a perfect pop song like "Crazy Eyes" (RealAudio excerpt) might be too weird for

commercial radio and too poppy for college stations. August

Everywhere is full of charms, though, and even if it's a jewel that

doesn't need any more polishing, it's still a jewel.