In Britain, the Pretty Things were as well known as such blues-rock contemporaries as the Yardbirds and the early Kinks, but that fame never traveled across the ocean. The band split in 1976, although it's reconvened several times since then, most recently for a lively new album, "Rage Before Beauty." The current sextet, which includes five members of the circa-1966 lineup, has nothing new to say, but says it with skill and zest.
Pretty Things guitarist Dick Taylor was an early member of the Rolling Stones, and such songs as "Passion of Love" and "Vivian Prince" reinvigorate that band's Chicago blues-based early sound. Competent but less essential are covers of such '60s chestnuts as "Eve of Destruction," the Stones' own "Play With Fire" and "Mony Mony," the latter juiced by Ronnie Spector's guest vocal. The band should have avoided working with a gospel choir for two of these tracks, but such retro-rockers as "Everlasting Flame" (which borrows liberally from the '66 Stones) and "Not Givin' In" have their own sort of spiritual power.
Singer-songwriter Paul Wallfisch named his new band Botanica after those stores that sell the raw ingredients for voodoo and Santeria rituals, and he no doubt hopes that the trio's "Malediction" is as spooky as a freshly cast spell. It's not, but it's not exactly teenypop either. Whether celebrating dimly lighted kicks in "Middle of the Night" or borrowing lines from Dorothy Parker for "A Fresher Hell," this is definitely not K-12 material.
Wallfisch, who plays keyboards and guitar and has worked with Firewater and Congo Norvell, can deliver a fey version of Ray Davies' "Fancy" or go goth with the title tune -- which was remixed by no less than Bauhaus's Daniel Ash for the album's hidden bonus track. "And Then I Met Her" recalls Tom Waits's twisted-Weimar cabaret-blues, but sometimes the singer just sounds like a kinkier version of a '70s singer-songwriter. When Wallfisch breaks into "The Castration Tango," though, it's clear that he doesn't want to be James Taylor.
Both appearing Saturday at the Garage with the Long Goodbye. To hear a free Sound Bite from the Pretty Things, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8107. For a Sound Bite from Botanica, press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)