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MOVIEGOERS 3/14, BEAT KITCHEN Thoughtful lyrics ("You learn a lot about people when you let them talk"), restrained delivery, and a clean instrumental attack characterize the moderate Jonathan Richman-esque pop-rock on the new sophomore set from this local foursome, Twinpop (Hear Diagonally). Not one of the season's blockbusters, but probably a damn fine date band.

N.I.L.8 3/14, DOUBLE DOOR Evidently these goofballs from Springfield pass as punks, but I have no doubt that the stale blend of ska, funk, and metal on their new album, ...Doug (Fuse), would sound exactly the same if punk had never happened.

PLASTICS HI-FI 3/14, METRO This local quartet's new full-length debut, Sonic Vacation (Squared Circle)â almost works as a full-blown Pink Floyd tribute--though it ultimately suffers from a tedium more characteristic of Mecury Rev. Also on the bill are Jeremy Enigk (see Critic's Choice) and Red Red Meat. r PAPAS FRITAS 3/15, RIVIERA You say the Cardigans are too sweet? Then you've probably never tasted Papas Fritas, whose cheery pop openly celebrates sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. But anyone who hails the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar" as the rock 'n' roll classic it truly is won't want to miss out on the soothing pleasures this Massachusetts band delivers at every turn on its forthcoming second album, Helioself (Minty Fresh). Though unrelated, these two guys and a gal sing together like the smartest family act since the Cowsills. They open for Duran Du--er, Blur.

CRITICS 3/15, BEAT KITCHEN This trio from the 'burbs lives up to its name by ever favoring the dark horse: sure, the tunes on Braintree (Black Vinyl) ring Beatles-esque, but only in that they sound like a cache of George Harrison demos that didn't quite make the cut for "Yesterday"...and Today.

THEE HYDROGEN TERRORS 3/15, LOUNGE AX The straight-out thump and raw guitar roar of this quartet from Providence recall postpunk bands like the early Fall, PiL, and Gang of Four, while ranter and sax bleater Guy Benoit breaks Iggy Pop's suave swagger down into the inchoate ravings of a street preacher.

GRAVEL PIT 3/18, SCHUBAS Four regular guys from Boston mine a vein of muscular guitar pop that's not too smart, not too sweet. On The Gravel Pit Manifesto (Q Division), when singer-Farfisaist Jed Parish isn't preaching ("Come on little babies / It's time to leave the cradle"), the group kicks heartily.

MINIM 3/19, FIRESIDE BOWL This local trio, which makes its debut Wednesday, includes bassist-vocalist Jenn Solheim, formerly of the fallen star called the Smoothies. There are the makings of a decent combo here, if these folks would just try staying on a pattern long enough to lock into a groove. Instead they're always stopping and starting, building tension that almost never resolves within a song, toying irresolutely with harsh and jagged textures. Be careful around this band or you might get cut.

--Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Papas Fritas photo by Cecilla Candia.

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