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SOUND BITES

Mr. FiddlerWith Respect

Elektra

++++

Before you can dance, you have to have a floor. A simple enough concept, which is unfortunately often ignored. But while a lot of pop dance tunes are constructed like the Guggenheim, Mr. Fiddler's attention is riveted to the bottom line. Call it architectural funk.

Even though they are good at cementing solid foundations _ especially on tunes such as Blackout and the subtle Cool About It _ Mr. Fiddler is just as adept at decoration. Henpecked builds like a grade school round, tossing an over-the-top guitar solo by Stevie Salas against syncopated vocals and a relentless rhythm track. And just listening to Cutie on Duty taxes your aerobic capacity.

They do slow down on occasion _ funk ballads don't get too much better than Starvin' like Marvin' _ but even then, you get the idea that everybody in the band is knocking himself out in service to the groove. Some healthy rhythm programing helps, but with guest stars like Salas, George Clinton, Mike Hampton and Eddie Hazel (the latter three among the several P-Funkers credited or thanked on the album), the Fiddlers know they can go home happy at quitting time.

_TONY GREEN

Beat Happening

Dreamy

Sub Pop

++++

Ezra Pound was an emphatic mentor. "Make it new!" he demanded of young poets. In a weird way, the Washington state trio, Beat Happening, resembles the stressed-out genius with the maniacal hair. Their minimal arrangements might hint otherwise, but you can bet they're concentrating on making their music new.

"Who's gonna love me the way that I am?" sings Calvin (only first names are known) in a Lou Reed-ish baritone so spooky one wonders exactly what way he is. Most of his vocals sound as if someone recorded him while driving around in his car, absent-mindedly making up songs. Heather's singing is just as indolently odd, although with a child-like fragility _ not a sweet little girl, mind you, but a twisted brat with a knack for getting attention. This is especially evident on Collide, one of the eeriest songs to come along in a while. It's eerie in a playful, sickly pretty way.

Dreamy is resplendent for being the exact opposite of what it suggests. There is nothing lush or breezy about this release. Beat Happening is exploring the darker, bizarre side of life, serving up quasi-songs made all brand new.

_ GINA VIVINETTO

THE RATING SYSTEM

Excellent +++++; Very good ++++;

Good +++; Mediocre ++; Poor +

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