THE SPONGETONES spent their Wonder Years soaking up the sounds of the '60s. And now that they're sort of grown up, they're squeezing those Good Influences out again, but it comes out as something all their own.
On their third album "Where-Ever-Land," the North Carolina trio's bright, brash pop aligns itself with the formalist pop styles of Big Star, Marshall Crenshaw and XTC. "Where-Ever- Land" opens with the brash, squalling "Forget About May" and closes with "Baby Boomer," both produced by Don Dixon, friend to many independent bands, who gets a hard, crunchy sound that speaks of the group's bar-band roots.
Included in the album's slightly softer, sweeter center: "Anna," which shares a title with the early Beatles tune, and manages to pack that group's entire recorded history into four minutes; "Images," which travels the colorfully acid-tinged terrain of XTC's recent psychedelic parodies; and rootsier stuff. And might "Just Another Mundane" be an answer to Bangles' Prince-penned "Manic Monday?"
The SpongeTones -- guitarist Pat Walters, bass player Jamie Hoover, drummer Rob Thorne -- are what used to be called a "power trio," and they have concocted a hot instrumental mix (replete with Beatles-Beach Boys-Hollies harmonies) that sounds much bigger than just three guys (plus occasional keyboards from Conrad Hunter). But before they crack the Top 40, which is not inconceivable, they need to concentrate on their occasionally haphazard lyrics. "Where-Ever-Land" is the band's first product on its own label, and the cassette and CD-only release has a crisp, immediate presence that promises good things from The SpongeTones in the flesh.
THE SPONGETONES --
"Where-Ever-Land" (Triapore Records 3077). Appearing Friday at the 9:30 Club.