Clinic, Apples in Stereo

The new Apples in Stereo disc--aptly titled Velocity of Sound--is indeed a very fast record, much more dynamic and, believe it or not, loud, much more so than anything they've put out thus far. But it's more than just uniformly high-pitched vocals pitted against roaring backgrounds. Of course, there's a dash of the usual psychedelia (one doesn't just forget his first love), but now there's also an arsenal of fuzzed-out, crunchy guitars to propel their surgical-strike pop songs furiously forward. There's even a bratty twang feel to "Rainfall" and "Better Days," lending some diversity to the rush of pixie-stick madness. The fits and bursts of sound, however, are very controlled. There are only three songs longer than three minutes.

The Apples--who sometimes sound more like a band of 9-year-olds than a band that's 9 years old, and who now have perhaps reached more 9-year-olds than anyone else thanks to their Cartoon Network-supported song from the Powerpuff Girls--are joined in mischief by U.K. eccentrics Clinic, whose similar penchant for brevity serves much more macabre sensibilities and downcast sounds. In concert, their songs are more literally surgical strikes; at every show each member of the band dons a surgical mask and scrubs. Exactly what sort of operation they're primed to perform is unclear.