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MOONPOOLS & CATERPILLARS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Lucky Dumpling (EastWest) 1995

Although the inclusion of a song entitled "Sundays" on the absolutely wonderful Lucky Dumpling at least acknowledges the resemblance, any characterization of this spunky and smart Los Angeles (Glendale, to be precise) quartet as America's new wave rocking reply to the Sundays barely gets the week started. Behind Utah native Kimi Encarnacion's strong, careening vocals — a sweetheart of falsetto yodels, yelps, nonsense syllables, whoops and delicate caresses — subtle power guitarist Jay Jay Encarnacion (her husband) and the rhythm section timewarp four decades of electric pop for an individualized set of enticing flavors. If Blondie had been flash-frozen in the late '70s and then thawed out in time to hear some of the late-'80s British bands they inspired, Moonpools & Caterpillars would be right there, joining in the giddy, tuneful fun.

Moonpools' engaging melodicism perfectly suits the songs' heartening lyrics, which express deep appreciation for nature and life, offer homespun philosophy and rave about cars, childhood, travel and romance. In "Hear," Kimi sings, "The day I find myself I'll be so very proud...Simply doing what you feel is the best way not to go wrong." In the wrong hands, such stuff could be insufferably precious, but set to music so breathlessly ingenuous, it reaches out like a revelation. "Colossal Youth" (which has nothing to do with Young Marble Giants beyond its title) vents at harmful parental judgmentalism with compelling anger. But in "Crazy Old World," she turns to a greater power and prays, "Mother wind, whisper to me, tell me all I need to know/Warm my skin, don't let me worry." While the words go off on semi-spiritual retreats, the music remains solidly grounded. "Summertime" quotes the harmonica line from War's "Low Rider"; odd bits of calypso and an aura of theatrical grandeur add breadth to this uncommonly inspiring debut. Rendered with rich, exacting, textured gusto by producers Richard Gottehrer and Jeffrey Lesser, Lucky Dumpling is one joyful treat.

[Ira Robbins]