A refreshing blast of Elvis Costello-flavored power pop goodness straight out of Chicago, the Webstirs' Radio Racket is a near perfect mix of guitar, bass, keys, drums, and tasty harmonies. Songs like "Dedicated And Famous," "Whitman's Star," and "Princeton" are gems in the rough, shiny and sparkly, but bearing sharp, jagged edges. "Bag Of Bones" has a nice blue-eyed soul feel, while "Leatherette" is a foot-stomping track with quirky lyrical turns that keep you guessing -- and how can you not like a song with lines like "Did you cry for Barbara Walters?" The charming melancholy of songs like "Ambient Sound" and "Ride It Down" is a nice contrast, but my favorite song is probably "St. Hildegarde," with its tasty ska guitar riff crashing into pure power pop choruses and those lush harmonies. The shimmering, piano-driven pop of "Liberty Camp" is a close second, though, with its infectious melody that recalls the best elements of both Queen and the Beatles, without ever sounding derivative of either -- it's an aural cousin to Deathray's brilliant "Now That I'm Blind," in fact, and I'd give just about anything to see the two bands play together. Radio Racket is a thoroughly charming find, and a record I'm endlessly glad to have discovered. If only today's commercial radio actually made a racket like this, the world would be a happier place. Oh, and Sarge fans, take note: this is what drummer Russ Horvath is doing these days!
Ginger Records, PO Box 06505, Chicago, IL 60606-0505, http://www.gingerrecords.com, http://www.thewebstirs.com