Fischerspooner's elaborate stage show has been described in some amusing ways since it blossomed from Manhattan's edgy electro and art scenes in late 1999: "Elton John in all his pomp and glory would find them embarrassingly tacky." "Cast-of-Cats-goes-Goth." The troupe of wildly costumed dancers perform onstage in spectacles of lighting and smoke. Casey Spooner, the charismatic frontman, lip-syncs to partner Warren Fischer's programmed beats. The manic entirety of the performance -- practiced "mistakes" included -- is meant more to ridicule the artifice of mainstream pop than to continue its tradition.

Clever and avant-garde, yes, but consumers don't play shtick on their CD players. The good news for Fischerspooner is that the lo-fi electro-pop of the band's new album, "#1," is artfully crafted, full of catchy hooks and uproarious (if exponentially off-color) lyrical moments. "Mega C" is vintage Fischerspooner, an upbeat, super-catchy techno romp with a dispassionate Euro-cool female voice singing in seeming earnest about the proverbial beautiful people -- and their colon problems. "Horizon" borrows a page from the Chemical Brothers, starting small and slow and building to an ecstatic dance-floor climax of synth swells and drumrolls, before settling back into a quiet groove. And the two-bar Speak & Spell riff of "Emerge" was a hit in the clubs when it was first released three years ago.

The album has flaws, primarily loops that occasionally linger into redundancy. But there are enough moments of transcendent emotion and sublime melody on "#1" to prove Fischerspooner an emerging idea -- not just to watch but to listen to as well.

-- Bill Werde

(Fischerspooner will perform April 13 at the 9:30 club. To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8164.)


Burn Piano Island, Burn

Aggressive music -- hard-core punk that would just as soon throw the freshman against the school locker as sell him records -- took on a different meaning in the annals of the underground. But with acts like the Locust and Racebannon, short, powerful bursts of electronic abrasion don't come from clenched fists but clenched minds, where strength comes in musical innovation and prowess. And of all the indie punks, Seattle's Blood Brothers is the one act that has a chance of puncturing the mainstream psyche, thanks to a very unlikely ally, Ross Robinson.

After a heavy courtship, nu-metal producer Robinson (Slipknot, Korn, Limp Bizkit) helped the band record "Burn Piano Island, Burn" -- a release that is nothing short of genius. If ever there was a place where confusion, beauty and a burning eye on faux society could combust into colorful instrumental fireworks, "Burn" is it.

Every moment of sensory overload (the intertwined vocal theatrics of two frontmen; guitar, drums and bass spinning into black holes of their own squalling universe) is tempered by moments of more subdued action (a glockenspiel, Wurlitzer or faint acoustic guitar accent raising a velvet curtain of atmospherics behind a somber set of vocals). There is more happening in two seconds of a track like the appropriately titled "Every Breath Is a Bomb" than in an hour of modern rock radio, and if At the Drive-In sounded edgy to you in its prime, Blood Brothers has erected an entirely new standard of avant noise that makes ashes out of the old punk formulas.

-- Jennifer Maerz

(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8163.)

Fischerspooner's latest is a blur of catchy hooks.