DIG IN! - Kelly's Heels (Popboomerang)
Like the late Jim Ellison of Chicago's Material Issue, Bob Kelly sounds like he isn't concerned as much with world power pop domination as he is with figuring out what makes girls with names like Sabrina tick and, ultimately, how to make them like him. While the complexities and mysteries of the female psyche are best left to headshrinkers and the shysters who foisted "How To Pick Up Girls" on the world, Kelly's continuing befuddlement has resulted in one of the most consistently entertaining albums in the genre since Ellison punched his own ticket by sucking moped fumes, alone in his garage, back in 1996.

To be fair, "Dig In!" is actually a compilation which gathers all of the sugary bits from the "Gone Off Pop!!," "Blunt Cut," and "Bent Over Backwards" albums, the band coming to the attention of Scotty Thurling of East Melbourne's Popboomerang in a roundabout way too confusing for a daydreamer like me to relate with any accuracy. The first four songs here, "Sabrina," "Don't Get Me Started," "Tell Me If It's Over," and "Should've Seen Her," are simply staggering, layered with gorgeous guitars, handclaps, and more hooks than a Golden Gloves tournament.

Kelly's Heels are all about the magic ingredients of jangle, verse/chorus/verse, and majestic harmonies - think of a less-quirky Squeeze or a punchier Records and you're nearly there. And since we're playing the comparison game, if you didn't know better, you'd swear you were listening to a recently-exhumed "Labour Of Love"-era Nick Lowe outtake with "Making Me Go On." You know, before he got all maudlin after Carlene Carter dumped him. Thinking back to how she looked in that miniskirt and cowboy boots on the cover of "Musical Shapes," though, it's easy to see why he was thrown for a loop, but I digress...

Bob Kelly is a wry, romantically-obsessed songwriter (dare I use the word "genius" - aw hell, why not?) who subscribes to traditional pop songwriting values and never suffers from self-conscious overambition, although he may tend to overthink the primary source of his inspiration - women - occasionally. Managing to resist throwing up his hands and surrendering to the old adage "can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em" is not only admirable, but defies all logic as well.

Let's face it - the topic of love has been pretty well covered in the context of the modern pop song but it's hard to argue with Kelly's Heels results. Unfortunately, their charming innocence and execution ain't enough to make this album sell by the bushelful, but power pop diehards shouldn't let that deter them from tracking down this minor masterpiece. - Clark Paull