BOND

"Classified"

Decca

JOSHUA PAYNE

"Your Love, My Home"

Verve

Is it necessary to point out that the women of Bond, those fiddling fashionistas, are indeed classically trained musicians? Probably no more so than explaining that the women of Hooters really do know how to expertly serve up a burger and fries. Really, they do.

On "Classified," Bond's latest release, the world's most primped and photogenic string quartet again frolics in crossover clubland, where disco hits, techno tinkering and world beats resonate alongside Pachebel's Canon in D, Khachaturian's Sabre Dance and Barber's Adagio for Strings. Trouble is, violinists Eos Chater and Haylie Ecker, violist Tania Davis and cellist Gay-Yee Westerhoff, talented as they may be, have a heck of a time rising above the flamboyantly layered din. But perhaps that's the point. Why else bring in London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra or rely so heavily on incessant drum programming and electronica if you're not interested in riding a tidal wave of genre-blending sounds big enough to wash away anyone within shouting distance? No question about it, "Classified" is an oddballishly orchestrated pop curiosity if ever there was one.

Singer-songwriter Joshua Payne is clearly indebted to Josh Groban for making the pop world a more hospitable place for earnest, classically trained balladeers. Like Groban, Payne possesses a handsome voice and a flair for romantic ballads, gifts that serve him well on his debut CD "Your Love, My Home." Up to a point, that is. Collaborating with veteran producer Michael Omartian, Payne spends too much time trying to place a distinctive stamp on some overly familiar songs, including Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" and David Gates's "If," without much success. He's far better off performing his own songs and other pop tunes that point to a promising future.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday at the Birchmere. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Bond, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8107; to hear Joshua Payne, press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)