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SCOVILLE UNIT (Buy CDs by this artist)
Everybody Knows (Ernest Jenning) 2004
DREW ISLEIB
Sounds Through the Wall (Ernest Jenning) 2002

Neatness may count in certain circles, but bands that know better than to blow an aura of casual fun in favor of some fussy techno-musical ideals are always worth knowing. The Scoville Unit, a five-man pop-punk combo (whose secret weapon is Tony Senés on organ and piano) from New Haven, recorded their debut album in a basement — and managed to make it sound that way, which is an altogether fine thing. The homey, sweet, understated, brief and cheerful Everybody Knows carries the torch of late '70s twee romantic-boy power pop into the After Green Day era; the group swings easily from the chart-styling bratpunky chord bop of "The Morning After" to a winning simplification of the Moody Blues' "Wildest Dreams" to gently strong folky-pop ("Do Not Disturb," "Oh, Centuries Ago"), Weezery charm ("Bitter Drinks") and spare acoustic strummery ("Last Train to Scoville"). "The New Design" does a nifty time warp, opening with a couple of lines from the Everly Brothers and then leaping 45 years ahead without harshing the mellow or sounding old-fashioned. Singer/guitarists Gandhar Savur and Drew Isleib (who actually made his one-man solo album before the band's debut disc, how's that for flipping the script?) have perfectly nondescript voices that blend comfortably with each other and the band's uncluttered energy. Savur's tunes are immediately likable (only "Secret Mission to Your Heart" falls on the precious side of sweet), and the eleven-track album is over before it has a chance to overstay its welcome. Neat!

[Ira Robbins]