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HERE COMES THE SUN : Jellyfish Echoes the Beatles' Cheer, But Is Bright Enough to Craft Its Own Style

February 21, 1991|MIKE BOEHM | Mike Boehm covers pop music for The Times Orange County Edition.

Little darlings, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter.

In short, early '91 has been a season in which we could all use a little Beatlesque cheer. Paul McCartney's tour has come and gone; George Harrison is still stage-shy. But here comes Jellyfish, a new San Francisco band whose Beatles-derived pop and lighthearted thrift-shop fashion sense figure to bring around a little sun.

Jellyfish debuted last year with "Bellybutton," an album that seemed intent on carrying on the job begun by Badfinger around the time of the Beatles' demise--keeping alive the Fab Four sound in a world no longer graced by their collective Fabness.

"Bellybutton" is rife with smart stylistic borrowings and occasional overt sonic quotations from the Beatles. At the same time, Jellyfish's songwriters--singer-drummer Andy Sturmer and keyboards player Roger Manning--are quirky and literate enough in their own right to make Jellyfish sound like a fresh take on an old style, rather than a stale rehash.

Both in their mid-20s, Sturmer and Manning have been working together since their high school days in the Alameda County community of Pleasanton. They got their first exposure as members of Beatnik Beatch, a San Francisco band that put out a 1988 album on Atlantic Records. Seeking greater control over its sound, the duo left to form Jellyfish, which also includes guitarist Jason Falkner and Manning's brother, Chris, on bass.

Jellyfish stepped forward last summer, swathed in imagery calculated to conjure up the Summer of Love: floral pants and printed shirts out of Haight-Ashbury and Carnaby Street; hats out of Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss. The "Bellybutton" album cover cast them as colorful Lilliputians swarming around a nude body decorated with blue-gel toothpaste.

"This band has always enjoyed presenting itself colorfully," Roger Manning said in an interview last fall. "A lot of that stuff we wear day in and day out. We just raided a lot of thrift stores."

While Jellyfish's music is sometimes as light and sunny as the band's name, album title and outward trappings would suggest, the group also is capable of delivering substance. One song, "The Man I Used To Be," is all too resonant in this long, cold, lonely winter. It's a strange, sad ghost story in which a sailor killed in battle watches helplessly as, years later, the son he left behind prepares to fight in yet another war.

What: Jellyfish.

When: Friday, Feb. 22, at 9 p.m. (A show on Thursday, Feb. 21, at Bogart's is sold out.) With Standing Hawthorne and the Fishermen.

Where: The Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.

Whereabouts: Interstate 5 to the San Juan Creek Road exit. Left onto Camino Capistrano. The Coach House is in the Esplanade Center.

Wherewithal: $13.50.

Where to call: (714) 496-8930.

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