NINE BY NINE - The Fletcher Pratt (Rainbow Quartz/Laughing Outlaw)

Boy, hasn't Laughing Outlaw cornered the market on bright, vibrant guitar pop? We've been working through a smorgasbord of Outlaw discs at the Bar lately (admittedly from the powerpop end of the spectrum), and this effort by a Detroit four-piece is one of the best. The Fletcher Pratt have a funny name (he was an American historian) but it's not as half as memorable as their music. This is perky, punchy guitar pop brimful of hooks.

Although The Fletcher Pratt come from Detroit they're more Ray Davies than Ron Asheton, with obvious nods to The Kinks, The Beatles and The Who. You can probably chuck in another "The" band in The Mooney Suzuki (60s revisionists and proud of it) and, If you're an Australian, you can add the Sunnyboys as another marker (at least for scoring them on the energy scale.) Guitarists George Dubber and Stephen Palmer share vocals and mix alternately snotty sneering with crisp, high-range harmonies. Fear not if you favour your powerpop with emphasis on the power - there's enough bristling and chiming guitars jumping out to rattle anyone's cage. Producer Al Sutton has achieved a liver-than-live, transparent sound to put the hooks right up front.

And the songs are, for the most part, wall-to-wall, go-to-whoa winners. Give it a spin and listen to the hat trick (that's three-in-a-row, you Yanks) of killer tunes that opens this album. "Electrocute" does so with a buzzing guitar undertow giving way to a shiny chorus. "Spin Label" swaps aforementioned nasal vocals for more measured singing and stop-start, tough guy pop. "Satellite" is a more whimsical ballad with balls.
It's coloured with occasional keyboards ("Living in the House" and rollicking piano on "Sugar Won't Let You Sleep"), ever present tambourine and occasional theremin (and the world does need more theremin players.) I've heard "16 Days (Unsteady)" - or something close to it - hundreds of times before and it still sticks. Rounding things off is the fittingly-titled "Long Medley", which covers the whole gamut from Lennonesque, moody pop to caustic guitar. Works for me. Special mention "Letter", a bouncy Kinksian jaunt with handclaps that shows off The Fletcher Pratt's ability to bounce all over the garage pop spectrum and still remain consistent.

You can have a rocking good time in some unheard of pop places. Go mine this one. - The Barman



3/4



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