The Click Five

The Click Five shredded any hope of hipster cred by appearing as the opening act on the Backstreet Boys' summer tour, but the Boston-based power pop outfit seems to be stalking bigger game. Instead of seeking their fortune with college-age Fountains of Wayne fans, the Click Five are more interested in their younger brothers and sisters, the ones who made a "TRL" hit out of "Stacy's Mom."

Twenty-five years ago, those kids might have gravitated toward the Cars or even the Knack, but these days anyone wanting pop without emo or New Wave without edges will find that the Click Five are all they've got. The band's debut, "Greetings From Imrie House," is fizzy and amiable, heavy on hooks and light on everything else.

Expertly played and earnestly delivered, "Greetings" is a tangle of influences, some mysterious (Are the Click Five dressed in matching suits on the album's cover to imply a kinship with the far-creepier Knack? Or do they just really, really like the Dave Clark Five?), some obvious: Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger contributes two tracks, including the fine first single "Just the Girl"; onetime Cars guitarist Elliot Easton turns up on "Angel to You (Devil to Me)," a track so Paleolithic in its good-girl, bad-girl cliches it's somehow not surprising it was written with Kiss's Paul Stanley; and there's a faithful cover of the Thompson Twins' "Lies" that offers little improvement over the (already wretched) original.

-- Allison Stewart


Cluster & Eno

You're never supposed to judge a book by its cover, but based on "Cluster & Eno," it looks like ambient space-rock records are fair game. The jacket of the 1977 album, freshly reminted on compact disc, bears a snapshot of a lone microphone raised toward a cloud-dappled sky.

It's a fitting metaphor for the dreamy soundscapes recorded during the first of two collaborations between uber-producer Brian Eno and the unfairly overlooked German kosmische band Cluster. Analog synthesizers pulse, flutter, tremble and interlace effortlessly throughout these nine meditative compositions, evoking a minimal elegance and fleeting beauty that any avid cloud watcher and/or Kraftwerk fan will appreciate.

By '78, Eno had defined ambient music as something that "must be as ignorable as it is interesting." By that standard, "Cluster & Eno" fails, as its stirring undulations here are often too appealing to ever tune out completely. The waterlike calm of "Fur Luise," the quivering drone of "Schone Hande" and the hypnotic buzz of "Steinsame" clearly illustrate how "Cluster & Eno" (as well as a second collaboration, "After the Heat," and Eno's subsequent "Ambient" series) inspired a generation of musicians to come. The ones who got it right proceeded to push the envelope in trance, techno and electronic composition. The ones who didn't are those vile culprits responsible for New Age.

-- Chris Richards

"Greetings" is an amiable introduction to the Click Five.