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By Michael Henningsen

DECEMBER 7, 1998: 

The Rugrats Movie Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Interscope)

Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach? Fine. Elvis Costello with No Doubt? Get the fuck out of here. But you'll find the curious pairing on the Rugrats platter. Not even "Take Me There" by Blackstreet & MYA featuring Ma$e could save this one. Better than the movie? Worse than the movie (if that's possible)? Who knows. But more importantly, who cares?

Seems like the folks at Interscope have become more obsessed recently with the act of releasing records than in the art of making the records they release count. Jeez. ¡

The Jupiter Affect The Jupiter Affect (Aerial Flipout)

First some history: Through the first half of the '80s, the Three O'Clock (originally the Salvation Army) were one of the best bands in America, combining punky wallop, sweet pop melodies and enthusiastic psychedelic explorations. The Salvation Army album (now available as Happen Happened by Befour Three O'Clock), Baroque Hoedown, Sixteen Tambourines and Arrive Without Travelling are all indispensable pop classics. Unfortunately, 1986's Ever After was slick and unfocused, and the less said about 1988's Vermillion, the better.

Three O'Clock leader Michael Quercio's two early-'90s albums with Permanent Green Light found him back in form, but this five-track EP by his new band shreds them both. Unlike in PGL, Quercio is the sole songwriter, and the songs are his best since 1985's Arrive Without Travelling. The ironic, lovely "Angela Davis Hair" and the sarcastically defeatist "Throwing in the Towel" are two of his all-time greats, in fact. Unfortunately, the mix is a little muddy and the arrangements too sparse: With his naturally ebullient voice and penchant for spiraling melodies, Quercio sounds best in a sparklier setting. This EP feels like a well-made demo--some more studio time with a sympathetic producer will no doubt make the next Jupiter Affect album a wonder to behold. ¡¡¡ ¡

Die Moulinettes 20 Blumen (Marina)

The first album by Hamburg's Die Moulinettes blends jangly guitars, intoxicating Europop melodies and gorgeous harmonies. There's strong echoes of Burt Bacharach, Ennio Morricone, Astrud Gilberto, Ray Conniff and especially Serge Gainsbourg, whose "Das War Eine Schone Party" (a 1968 hit for France Gall in its French version, "Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son") ends the album. Like the 11 tracks preceding, it sounds neither campy nor cute.

As the lyrics are in German, I have no idea what the songs are about, though titles like "Zaubervogel Barbie," "Gringo (A Man Must Fight)" and "Die Mondane Welt der Mode" give tantalizing hints. Guitarist Claudia Kaiser has the perfect voice for this type of pop, cool and languid, too low to sound chirpy. When drummer Kiki Wossagk and bassist Barbara Streidl add their voices to the mix, the effect uncannily recalls Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen, while Kaiser's banjo on several tracks is equally reminiscent of the High Llamas.

However, unlike these groups, Die Moulinettes don't use these sounds as one element in a blend of styles; instead Die Moulinettes strive to approximate the original '60s Europop records which inspired them. This would probably be unbearably precious were it not so well done. ¡¡¡¡

The Prissteens Scandal, Controversy and Romance (Almo Sounds)

This is one of the most disappointing albums I've heard in ages. The advance buzz compared these New Yorkers to a mix of tough late '70s New Wavers (early Blondie, Holly and the Italians, the Pretenders) and Shangri-Las/Ronettes-style '60s girl groups. Not by a mile, I'm afraid.

The album wouldn't be so frustrating if it merely sucked, but unfortunately, hints of what might have been permeate nearly every song: Lori Yorkman has a great bratty voice and the band works up a good pop-punk head of steam similar to the first Undertones album. Unfortunately, Richard Gottehrer's production is entirely too slick, and what they do to Wreckless Eric's classic "Whole Wide World" is just sad. There's hope for next time, if they go with a different producer and stay away from the covers, but file this under "promising but deeply flawed." ¡¡¡

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