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CUNNINGHAMS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Zeroed Out (Warner Bros.) 1997

On the opening power pop chords of "Days Gone By," which begins this Seattle band's intermittently stellar album of cheer-laden, hook-driven pop, the musical weapons and influences are drawn and pointedly visible: male Breeders, grungy Teenage Fanclub, joyful Bob Mould. The second song, "Bottle Rockets," bursts out of its tight clothes in an unremitting rhythmic pile-up. The band, name courtesy of Happy Days, had some radio success, but was burdened by extracurricular hype; they were also, duh, kind of in the wrong city at the wrong time. Brilliantly produced by Don Gilmore (Pearl Jam, Eve 6, Kid Rock), the band does flag by album's end, as negatively (and unintentionally) echoed in "Generic Song." The powerful twin guitars of Scott Bickham and Eric Craig get rousing workouts throughout, but the real star is Seven Pearson on vocals. He never sneers or whines; his voice reconfigures the simplest of power pop equations: if you don't love me, he insinuates, there is always another bar down the road. Sadly, the band never made any other music of note, either together or as solo acts; even sadder, Pearson killed himself in 2001.

[Michael Baker]