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By Richard Harrington

Friday, February 18, 2000; Page N17

The Brothers Creeggan are as cool, calm and collected as the Barenaked Ladies are wacky, wild and woolly. Jim Creeggan, of course, plays bass for the Ladies, while Andy used to play keyboards for that group before moving on to serious composition studies at Montreal's McGill University. The Brothers Creeggan is an ongoing 'tweener project, an opportunity for subdued reflections on matters of the heart as well as slightly skewed familial remembrances. Among the latter: the bracing elastic pulse of "John's in the Fridge," fondly recounting a narrowly averted childhood tragedy; the semi-zippy "Goin' to the Forest," in which Jim Creeggan recalls a surprisingly short-lived incident of youthful rebellion; and the skittish bounce of "Kitchen Dancin'," which conjures the genial bustle of dinnertime in the Creeggan household.

However, the album's true charms come in its simple snapshots of romantic anxiety. Sometimes, it makes for positive anticipation, as on the sophisticated chamber-folk of "Fondly Yours" and subdued declamation of "There's A Melody." With its rolling acoustic guitars and shuffling rhythms, "Stuck" evokes Nick Drake/John Martyn-style melancholy, and there are several other pensive meditations on missed opportunities in the jangling "Lila," regretful "Survey the Situation" and "She Married a Cowboy," which conjures the familiar restlessness of those trapped in "small town, big dreams/ slow pitch baseball team/ she chose the bus stop/ and not the short-stop."

Overall, the music is subdued, wrapped around the Creeggans' wistful vocals and supple instrumental settings that seem as much about pulse as melody, even when they transform a pop standard like Frank Loesser's "Inchworm," a charmer from the 1952 film "Hans Christian Andersen." Here and elsewhere, the Brothers Creeggan aim to spin their own airy, not-so-grim tales in the night air.

Appearing Wednesday at the Metro Cafe. * To hear a free Sound Bite from the Brothers Creeggan, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8104. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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