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The Bigger Lovers | Honey in the Hive (Munich/Yep Roc)
In the sweet and saturated sphere of power pop it can pay to keep things interesting by having two (or more) lead vocalists and it's a philosophy embraced by Philadelphia quartet, The Bigger Lovers. Bret Tobias and Scott Jefferson trade lead vocals on their eleven track second album, harmonising with guitarist Ed Hogarty and production/engineering team of Thom Monahan (Pernice Bros., Beachwood Sparks) and Brian McTear (Mazarin, Bitter Bitter Weeks, Lenola), propelled along by Patrick Berkery's percussion. Closer in sound to Sloan (particularly on the Chris Murphy-esque Don't Know Why) than the mix'n'match decade-hopping stylings of The Posies, but with an injection of Teenage Fanclub's breezy, west-coast sensibilities, The Bigger Lovers' roots seem firmly planted in the '60s and in particular the revered Odyssey and Oracle/#1 Record dyad. Lush harmonies combine with punchy guitar hooks and 'Honey in the Hive' pulls you in like a moth to a flame or, more appropriately, like a bee to the pollen-drenched flower that adorns the sleeve. Half Richard's is an exuberant opening statement of intent, chiming guitars and an insistent back-beat, with a killer chorus and soaring, guitar-led climax, whilst Scott Jefferson's A Simple 'How Are You?' flips their coin to show a more polished, dreamy pop song gate-crashed by an '80s synth line that somehow works. Elsewhere both songwriters prove their worth with stellar ballads, Tobias' acoustic led They Haunt Me Still, seems to float by on a candyfloss cloud, and Jefferson's reverb-drenched closer, Minivan Blues, is a five-minute epic with a melody that veers perilously close to Barry Manilow's Can't Smile Without You (not that they'll thank me for that). Other highlights include the glam rock What Would It Take?, and the indie-rock rush of Ivy Grows, but The Bigger Lovers don't put a foot wrong on what is probably the catchiest record you'll have heard in 2002.