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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Aztec Camera Flashing Wholesome Image

December 10, 1987|KRISTINE McKENNA

Rock critic Greg Shaw once described Fabian and Frankie Avalon as "pop stars aimed at suburban teen-age girls who want fluffy images of male niceness on which to focus their pubescent dreams."

Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame is living proof there's nothing new under the sun, as that description fits him like a glove. A lanky kid with a groovy haircut, an adequate voice and a dorky set of stage moves, Frame is aglow with a "Spin and Marty" wholesomeness that elicited waves of approval from the adoring audience at the Wiltern Theatre on Tuesday. Shuffling to center stage in tattered jeans, this modest young Scotsman is an unlikely sex symbol, but that's exactly what he's shaping up to be. The girls went bananas when he appeared.

Formed seven years ago when Frame was 16, Aztec Camera is so sincere, squeaky-clean and sensitive it makes R.E.M. look like Motorhead. Twee is the operative adjective in describing the group's current LP "Love," an aural jamboree of warmth and wonderfulness that espouses the kind of easily grasped message that spells commercial success.

Frame and his five musicians (plus a pair of female backing vocalists) turned in a set of your basic upbeat, singer-songwriter shtick that focused on the giddy euphoria of puppy love. Marrying lilting rhythms, whimsical melodies and confessional lyrics to an underpinning of folk-rock, it's pleasant enough, but this music isn't about challenge or change, and it isn't even about having a few laughs. It's simply another smooth and efficient cog in the smooth and efficient machine called Yuppiedom. Listen for it at your local mall.

Opening the show was Sacramento group Bourgeois Tagg, a neo-Badfinger, power-pop quintet adept at the kind of big, blustering, empty sound currently holding the airwaves hostage.

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