THE DADS are four good-looking guys from Richmond with a firm grasp of the pop esthetic but only a weak hold on rock'n'roll. Their self-titled debut album contains all original material, heavy on melodic charm and teenage sentiment but light on muscle and passion. When their romantic sensibility is teamed with the endearing childish voices of Bryan Harvey and Kevin Pittman, the result is some fetching commercial rock that, at best, recalls the power-pop tradition from the Raspberries to Rick Springfield.
The album's opener, "Rhythm Master," is a high-energy piece that lifts the compulsive intro of the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" and sustains it with a neat chorus and kinetic arrangement. Both "Man With Machinery" and "Souvenir" are wistfully captivating numbers that carry the same boy-in-his-bedroom dreaminess of Marshall Crenshaw's best songs.
As a piece of pop confection, "The Dads" is a good record that could have been much better had producer Paul Leka not tried to render the band's sound as flawless as their handsome visages. After a few numbers, the processed vocals and guitars get annoyingly unreal. That lack of flesh-and-blood reality keeps this band from joining the ranks of the best power popsters such as Marshall Crenshaw or D.C.'s own Tommy Keene, who give pop artifice a painfully real and human shape.
THE DADS -- "The Dads" (Estate/Columbia BSZ 39608); appearing Friday at Club Saba.