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RAILWAY CHILDREN (Buy CDs by this artist)
Reunion Wilderness (Factory) 1987 (Virgin) 1987
Recurrence (Virgin) 1988
Native Place (Virgin) 1990

Named after a 1971 film, this young light Anglo-pop quartet from Wigan (near Manchester) sounds like any number of other northern groups, from the Smiths to James to Aztec Camera. Somehow, the group wound up on the usually adventurous Factory, releasing the singles compiled on the Reunion Wilderness mini-album (expanded by two tracks for American release). Gary Newby's attractive voice is the band's only notable asset; otherwise this exercise in ringing electric guitars and briskly strummed acoustics is entirely routine.

With two real producers (Jamie Lane and Bruce Lampcov) working the board, Railway Children show a little more stylistic breadth on Recurrence, but Newby's songs have yet to demonstrate any special strength or character that would elevate the records beyond mere pleasantness. (And his voice doesn't sound as richly expressive as it did the first time out.)

The overbearing Native Place adds synthesized keyboards, sampled drums, loud guitars and other rock attributes to a new batch of tunes. No longer an unassuming pop group, the Railway Children are growing into dance-oriented chart hacks. "You're young/And it feels all wrong/To be someone you're not." Exactly.

[Ira Robbins]