ED JAMES - Poprocket

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"Meet Ed James!," the title of his first record screamed. "The debut CD by America's Phenomenal Pop Sensation!" And it was -- a debut, anyway. As a pop purist working alone, Ed James pumped the album full of every idea that had ever burbled from the bottom of his sticky bubblegum brain. In other words, he could have used an editor. While he returns as producer, performer, and general main brain behind Poprocket, James' energy is more focused, and his songwriting is stronger. It's more of a unified power pop record, as opposed to a hodgepodge of influences. And besides, there are some just plain spectacular songs here. "Rocketship" wraps a "Dream Police" synth hook around the nose of the peppy title vehicle and buries the Fun-O-Meter needle thoroughly in the red -- it could be the theme music for a groovy space-based cartoon not yet invented. James' joy is pretty darn addicting; he sounds like Superchunk's Mac McCaughan trying to sing Sweet songs on a sugar high. He has no time for ballads, either. "C'mon C'mon," "Selling Out," and the cool garage-pop pound of "Trippin' on Your Love" fill up the album's middle with giddy and gritty guitar lines, boisterous choruses, and moreMonkees references than the city zoo. There is a hollow, home-computer quality to Poprocket's production, and this can detract a bit from what James is trying to do. But in a way it's also a boon, since it gives the album an air of instant gratification. It doesn't have any roots, so you need to enjoy it right now, and not think too much while you are.