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POP MUSIC REVIEW

When the Elements Blend, Bluetones Soar at the Roxy

September 14, 1996|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Britpop of the '90s has been a mixed blessing for American rock fans. But even as a faceless crowd of U.K. acts hungrily attach themselves to the momentum of Oasis, Blur and Pulp, occasional bright spots like the Bluetones emerge to add another worthwhile shade to the genre.

The Bluetones create a nice, if unspectacular sound that balances Adam Devlin's meaty guitar hooks with the quietly yearning vocals and occasional harmonica of Mark Morriss. At the Roxy on Thursday, the Bluetones weren't quite able to re-create the quieter shadings of their debut album, "Learning to Fly," which has already earned the band several hits at home.

While too many songs came off as shapeless and forgettable live, the band just as often soared when all the elements (the raw guitar energy, the smooth euphoric harmonies) finally coalesced into some forceful, expressive pop, demonstrating that the band fully understands the concept of subtlety.

On Thursday, the vocals couldn't always be heard above the din. Morriss, dressed in black, didn't help matters with his few personal overtures to his audience, looking blankly at the crowd of strangers in front of him.

By contrast, opening act Drag's wistful dual-guitar pop created a looser, more relaxed atmosphere. The South Carolina quintet churned through a brief set that culled songs from its recent "Satellites Beaming Back at You" album, mixing muscular rock with just enough sugar.

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