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After 'Chasing,' Mission Should Be to Find Itself

September 25, 1996|MIKE BOEHM

** 1/2 Mission Delores "Chasing Butterflies" (no label)

On rare occasions a new band will burst forth fully realized with a sound of its own. Not this time.

Like the vast majority of aspiring bands, Mission Delores, a very capable pop-rock foursome, has begun its recording life very, very immersed in transparently audible influences.

The warm-and-wistful "Something in the Water" swipes the harborcoat right out of R.E.M.'s closet, while the chime and tumble of "Calling to America" sounds like a delayed satellite bounce-back of the signal that Messrs. Stipe, Buck and company sent out 15 years ago on their debut single, "Radio Free Europe."

"Wings," a stately waltz, knocks off Toad the Wet Sprocket knocking off R.E.M. But while jangly, fervent and reedily sung rock is Mission Delores' favorite pastime, the band does branch out in some promising directions.

"Idealistic Views," a salvo against racial and homophobic bigotry, is sung through bullhorn distortion and cops a lick or more from the psychedelic guitar moves of Spirit's Randy California and Jefferson Airplane-vintage Jorma Kaukonen. On "Bury This Feeling," Mission's talented singer, Philip Whittles, tries out some high-cry vocal adornments a la Counting Crows--and manages not to fall into the same trap of sniveling overstatement as the Crows' Adam Duritz. "I Hate You (But I Love You)," the album's zingiest number, is an amalgam of the Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang" and a pealing guitar sound that suggests the zestier side of the Cure.

The best cut, "Lite Up," is a simple little folk ditty that mocks people who busy themselves with marijuana prohibition. Unlike everything else on this fervent-to-a-fault collection, the song doesn't take itself too seriously.

Mission Delores' seriousness turns into deadening pomposity with "Learn to Let Go" and "Jodi," predictable narrative songs that stretch out to unbearable lengths. Most of the songs are written from a rut of post-adolescent disappointment, in which the protagonist realizes the world isn't a little cocoon but often a nasty and forlorn place. If Mission Delores can find some paths less familiarly trodden and carry along some of the wry bounce that informs "Lite Up," its next record might get beyond the modern-rock jukebox deluxe presented here.

(Available from Mission Delores, P.O. Box 1091, Orange, CA 92668, or (714) 218-5498.)

Ratings range from * (poor) to **** (excellent), with *** denoting a solid recommendation.

* Mission Delores opens for Dread Zeppelin on Saturday at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. 8 p.m. $12.50-$14.50. (714) 496-8930.

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