ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW TODAY - The City Lights (Ivy League/Slanted)
The indie/underground rules say that the hipsters should hate this Sydney band - they've been album-of-the-week on the often lamentable Triple Jay and appeared on the ultra-bland tonight show TV "Rove" the other evening. The hipsters probably DO hate them, but for the rest of us, this is is pretty cool. Plus, the singles ("What You Gonna Do" and "Curse on Everyone - Hey Hey Hey") stick like shit to a blanket.

The City Lights bring together a couple of John Reed Club people and an ex- Youth Club member, and while neither of those antecedents likely topped the pops of your average I-94 Barfly, this re-configuration might have attracted their attention if they frequent the Sydney live scene. The City Lights have been hard to miss, playing supports to everyone from the D4 to the Dirtbombs.

They sound like neither, pushing a line in energetic guitar rock-pop that owes more to The Who (dig Harry Roden's Ox-like basslines!) Vocalist-guitarist James Roden is more than capable of wrapping his soulful pipes around a tune and carrying it home.

I've heard comment that The City Lights don't really have the songs to go the tough yards and that's puzzling. There's plenty here to warm the cockles of the hearts of anyone with a pop bone in their body, but delivered (and produced) in a way that rocks moderately, too. Mr Pop Production, Michael Carpenter (aka Everywhereman), pushed the sliders and twisted the pan pots, resisting any temptation to over-polish the band's sound.

If it was Sydney circa 1983, you might have filed "Escape..." under M for Mod, but the Cities sound like they have much more balls than what was riding Vespas back then.

"A Big Star" not only passes for political comment in an Australian election year, but marks the current Federal Employment Minister's debut appearance in a rock and roll song. I'm sure he's chuffed. "You Stand Accused Young Man" bobbed up on the second "Lost Weekend" compile of Aussie pop and still rattles along nicely.

There are a couple of dead spots, and sometimes you wish the Cities would take more risks (like the cover on the "What You Gonna Do"? EP of the Tamrons' "Wild Man", a song also appropriated by Billy Childish). If you have a hankering for the poppy end of Sydney rock's sometimes faded spectrum, this ain't a bad effort. Bring on Album Number Two. - The Barman