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GREENBERRY WOODS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Rapple Dapple (Sire/Reprise) 1994
Big Money Item (Sire) 1995
SPLITSVILLE
Splitsville U.S.A. (Big Deal) 1996

Benefiting from three equally talented singer/songwriters (Ira Katz and twin brothers Matt and Brandt Huseman), Baltimore's Greenberry Woods push all the right power-pop buttons on Rapple Dapple, co-produced by Andy Paley. The bouncy "Trampoline" kicks things off in fine fashion and sets the stage for what follows: piles of gutsy guitar, sweet harmonies and more hooks than the NBA all-star team. Lyrics are hit and miss, though; for every dull observation ("Waiting for Dawn to turn me on"), there are bull's-eyes: "I used to play love tongue-in-cheek/now I wish I'd kept my tongue in check." But when the melodies are as delicious as they are on "I'll Send a Message," "That's What She Said" and the slightly punkified "Nowhere to Go," such lyrical transgressions are easily overlooked.

The eighteen-song Big Money Item (produced by Paley) delivers more of the same manic pop thrills, although the Greenberry Woods' influences are easier to spot this time around. They borrow from Air Supply (!), the Beach Boys (you'll have a hard time believing that's not Carl Wilson singing lead on the swell "Go Without You"), the Beatles and Monkees simultaneously (the insistent "Back Seat Driver") and Big Star (the Sister Lovers-styled ballad "Invisible Threads"). Superb stuff, but overly derivative.

Splitsville, a pseudonymous trio of the Huseman brothers (here dubbed Captain Dusty and Messiah Kari) and singing drummer Johnny Immaculate, goes for pop-punk laughs on its maiden voyage. With song titles like "Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Larry Storch, Larry Storch," "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein" and "Gremlin With Mags," it's pretty evident how seriously this is all meant. Still, Splitsville U.S.A. is often hooky enough — in a Buzzcocks/Redd Kross fashion — to hang in there.

[John M. Borack]