Boston’s under-appreciated Miles Dethmuffen proudly wear their skinny-tie new wave influences on their sleeves, to the point of declaring on one song that they “believe in the ’80s.” Indeed, the four bandmembers are unwavering in their love of happy hooks, jangling melodies and clever wordplay. Produced by Paul Q. Kolderie, the terrific Nine-Volt Grape positively snaps and crackles with no-frills guitar-pop energy, kicking off with the ridiculously upbeat “In Clover.” Bassist Linda Bean P. serves as the passionate honest heart to guitarist Ad Frank’s terminal wiseacre, as the two swap lead vocals and engage in classic boy/girl-group harmonies. Though it’s almost impossible to choose among the record’s many witty and pointedly charming songs, standouts include Frank’s puckish feminist rallying cry (of sorts), “The Wandering Sexist Rogue Meets Miles Dethmuffen’s Fabulous Hammered Dulcimer,” the wallflower’s lament of “Mike Foley’s All Night Party” and the bittersweet relationship-in-crisis melodrama, “Cohabitants.”
The years following Nine-Volt Grape yielded just one single, 1992’s very wonderful “Mouth of Hell” b/w “Painting the Bridge.” The band’s long-time-coming sophomore LP, Clutter, however is somewhat of a misstep. While not bad by any stretch, Clutter has a darker demeanor; the once-sprightly sound suffers from John C. Wood’s monochromatic rock production. Still, the album features some of the shiniest jewels in the Dethmuffen crown: Linda’s anthemic “Loveman, We Love You” and the perky-but-sad “Sleeping Bag” (both dating from ’92 Kolderie sessions), as well as Ad’s plaintive “Hope I Don’t Spend All My Money on Liquor.”
The eponymous ’95 EP is a definite return to form. Wood remains behind the board, only this time the church bells chime, the guitars glimmer and the choruses are deliciously catchy. With swell pop delights like Frank’s heartwrenched arena ballad “White After Labor Day” and Bean P.’s jittery “Dying to Hear From You,” the six-track disc is an ideal representation of Miles Dethmuffen’s brainy Beantown power pop.