Jupiter Affect

Instructions for the Two Ways of Becoming Alice (Eggbert Records)

Looking at a name like Jupiter Affect, you'd be justified in assuming this is one of those ambient/house/techno/ dub/whatever albums full of electronic burps, blats and filter washes. That futuristic-by-way-of-retro band logo and album art must be the product of some pasty-faced U.K. studio rat, right? O-ho -- not so fast, young conclusion-jumper: If you lead with your preconceived notions, you'll get sucker-punched every time. Jupiter Affect plays shiny, clever pop -- not that newfangled electronica stuff -- that traces its roots back to the British Invasion and sparkles with needle-sharp hooks that embed themselves in your head for days at a time.

Take the opening track, "White Knuckle Sound." It skips merrily along on clipped guitar chords and a crisp backbeat, crackling with the sort of cheerful aggression Pete Townshend would trade his hearing aids to reclaim. "When the Bossman's got you down/knock him out into the ground," bassist/vocalist Michael Quercio (the elders among you may remember the name from his days with LA guitar-poppers the Three O'Clock) sings over a French horn's silvery peals. Try not humming that gem the next time you're wasting eight hours of your life for minimum wage. Go ahead -- try not humming any of the 13 tracks Quercio wrote. From the vibraphones, plucked jazz guitar and flute weirdness of "Inside (Isis Rising)" to the bouncy bass/hopscotch guitar rush of "Druscilla I Dig Your Scene," he seems incapable of writing anything less than catchy.

Querico skillfully covers both topics of traditional pop music, love and girls, in the process evoking fellow Los Angelenos Brian Wilson's sweet innocence and Redd Kross' tone and recalling Ray Davies' confusion and wry phrasing, all without sounding like a carbon copy of any of these skilled pop craftsmen.

But is there more to Jupiter Affect than damn good melodies and deft lyrical twists? The liner notes and sleeve art are littered with sly references to the Rosicrucians, an ancient secret order on the level of the Freemasons and the Illuminati, who concerned themselves with magic, alchemy and esoteric knowledge. The pivotal track of the album is titled "The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz"; the album is dedicated to the Order of the Rose Cross -- curiouser and curiouser. But if you learn anything from Jupiter Affect, it's that one shouldn't jump to any sudden conclusions. Michael Quercio's publishing company is called Aldo Silly Music, so chances are it's all a larf. And you shouldn't be looking for deep, mystical meanings in pop music, anyway. You find those in deep-house albums. All pop music gives you is a big smile and three minutes of bliss.

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