The Anniversary, The Burning Brides, Lo-Hi

They might be terrible dressers, they might have chosen a dreadful band name, they might even be friends with those dorks the Get Up Kids, but don't let anyone tell you that Lawrence, Kansas, popsters the Anniversary aren't crafty: Designing a Nervous Breakdown, the band's tuneful 2000 debut, packed just enough fussy antique-synth effluvium to put some reasonable distance between its whiny puppy-love songs and the soppy post-Pinkerton dross everyone was using the E-word to describe and deride. On its recent follow-up, January's Your Majesty, the band narrowly escapes homogeneity again, utilizing all kinds of unnecessarily knotty song-structure tricks and '70s-rock sonic signatures to differentiate itself from the innumerable pop-punk bands treading serious post-Maladroit water. An A for ingenuity, if not for songcraft. Blitzed Philadelphia rockers the Burning Brides are clever, too--they even got V2 to relaunch Fall of the Plastic Empire, the snappy debut Philly indie File 13 released last year to a strong underground buzz. Like the Anniversary, the Brides just barely skirt genre convention, delivering familiar pleasures (Stooges riffs) in a package novel enough to warrant closer inspection (Nirvana choruses); they seemed right at home warming up for Queens of the Stone Age this summer. New York-based openers Lo-Hi, featuring Boss Hog drummer Hollis Queens, aren't so resourceful; their second album, Say It More, offers the rote rumble of the neo-garage scene with little of the sparkle that has occasionally made that revival seem worthwhile.
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Mikael Wood

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