Pet (Hightone)

A thread of music runs from the Go-Gos to Holly and the Italians to Marshall Crenshaw to Don Dixon to Marti Jones to St. Louis's '80s heroes the Painkillers to England's the Primitives to the astroPuppees.

What are we supposed to call this stuff?

You can't call it pop music, exactly, because, with the exception of the Go-Gos, none of it has been particularly popular. Besides, in today's world, pop means the likes of the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync and Christina Aguilera, all of whom are catchy enough but share little with the aforementioned artists besides a love of hooks.

It's not power pop, either; though each of these artists has used his or her share of power chords, their music is too diverse and, most of the time, too far removed from the Beatles to fit under that more limited umbrella. Nope, this is a strain of music that can only be described with the time-honored phrase "You know it when you hear it."

The astroPuppees fit right into the pantheon, so much so that Crenshaw, Dixon and Jones stop by for cameo appearances on the record. They form part of a small army of guest musicians who help out lead puppee Kelley Ryan, the only person to appear on each of Pet's 13 cuts. The core band, though, seems to consist of drummer John Oreshnick and bassist Maureen Serrao (she co-wrote five songs and sings lead on two). The large roster of musicians helps contribute to a mixture of musical moods; the astroPuppees can sound delicate ("Sleep," "Olive 5"), fuzzed-out and exhilarated ("It's Alright"), or just plain rocking ("15 Seconds," "Angelica").

Ryan's sensibility, though, is the dominant factor on the record, and it's a good one. She likes melodic, hook-filled tunes, with choruses that insist on being sung along with. With subject matter that is predominantly the beginnings and endings of romance, her take on these timeworn topics is fresher than most. (You've got to tip your hat to a woman who one-ups Blur by writing a song called "Woo Hoo Hoo." It's at least as good as Blur's hit single "Song 2.")

So the astroPuppees can't be filed under some marketing umbrella. In fact, they probably can't be marketed at all, considering the track record of the bands whose magic they invoke. But if you ever liked any of the artists mentioned in the first paragraph, you'll be delighted to find their musical legacy is being carried on, and it's as much fun as it ever was.