PUFFY AMIYUMI

"Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Music From the Series"

Epic

ADAM RICHMAN

"Patience and Science"

Or Music

Even before their animated alter egos became Cartoon Network stars, Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura were an enigma. Although their sparkle is undeniable, the two singers -- billed in the United States as Puffy AmiYumi -- seem to have little involvement in the songs they perform. It's impossible to tell if they even appreciate the elaborate pop-rock pastiches crafted for them by producer-songwriters Andy Sturmer and Tamio Okuda. But if being one of Japan's sprightliest musical exports is just a job to them, Ami and Yumi chirp as if they're the happiest workers on the J-Pop production line.

Designed for fans of the program, "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Music From the Series" is another of the duo's stateside compilation albums, repositioning several previously released songs. These include "Planet Tokyo," a space-surf-rock romp, and "That's the Way It Is," a Beatles/Who hybrid that's a marvel of near-plagiarism. Among the fresh stuff are nods to the Troggs ("Forever") and the Beach Boys (the charming "December''), as well as the toons' exuberant theme, "Hi Hi." Interestingly, the songs written by California's Sturmer (late of psych-pop band Jellyfish) and Tokyo's Okuda are largely indistinguishable, except that Okuda's feature more Japanese lyrics. So perhaps Ami and Yumi really are running this show -- anime cuties on the screen and auteurs behind the scenes.

Although Adam Richman writes his own material, his "Patience and Science" doesn't feel any more personal than "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi." The New York-based singer-guitarist (and George Washington University dropout) writes to a formula that produces bright, Weezer-ish emo-poppers. The album-opening "What Can Make You Mine?" is a fine example: It opens as a sort of nursery rhyme and just builds to the catchy title query.

Richman does much the same thing on "Mary-Anne" and "Baby I've Changed" and -- well, all these tunes -- which is a problem. Taken individually, Richman's songs are agreeably bouncy and tuneful, but 12 in a row can be numbing. A pop prodigy who played every instrument on this self-produced debut, Richman has proved that he can serve as Rivers Cuomo's understudy.

Now he needs to find his own role.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Monday at the 9:30 Club.