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CHOPPER (Buy CDs by this artist)
4play EP (Animal 5) 1989
Chopper (Aus. Zero Hour) 1991
Slogans and Jingles (Big Deal) 1993
Supersmile EP (Big Deal) 1994
Madhouse on Castle Street (Big Deal) 1995

Connecticut singer/songwriters Steven Deal and Robert Dietrich are Chopper. With a revolving assortment of bassists and drummers, the guitar-playing duo has released three full-length albums of hook-filled pop visions. Each disc is as rewarding as it is different.

Recorded as a trio, the 12-inch 4play contains four songs, including "Caitlin Cries" and "Nice Girls (Don't Explode)." Chopper, however, does explode with a healthy ration of mod-influenced power chords and nifty melodies. Surrounding a rough yet reverent cover of the Creation's classic "How Does It Feel to Feel" are a slew of originals in the same spirit. The disc's highlight is the terse rocker "You're Tearing Me Up," reprised from 4play.

The two packed away the mod influences on Slogans and Jingles, instead traveling the classic, chiming three-minute pop song route. The results are stunning: fourteen tracks of consistently enjoyable, boyishly sung numbers like the cutesy "Swirling Girl," the bubblegummy "Is It Love Inside?!?!" (which borrows its lead guitar riff from the Jaggerz' 1970 hit, "The Rapper") and a totally appropriate cover of the Records' "The Same Mistakes." The Supersmile EP contains two tunes from Slogans and Jingles, as well as covers of Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle With You," the Plimsouls' "Hush, Hush" (from an Australian tribute album) and the Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love?," given a delicate acoustic reading.

Another stylistic shift of sorts occurred with the release of Madhouse on Castle Street, which takes Chopper partway into country-rock. There's still some pure pop (most notably the opening "Run Away"), but the addition of mandolin and pedal steel guitar is a radical departure. The jaunty "Walter Byrd" scores points in the country vein, but the often melancholy song stylings of Madhouse are, on the whole, something of a disappointment after the fresh-faced pop of Slogans and Jingles.

[John M. Borack]