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Record Review - 2 July 11 2001

The towering debut from Philadelphia's Bigger Lovers is proof that delusions of indie-pop grandeur needn't be frontloaded with heaps of emasculated, self-absorbed baggage. A credit to the thinly veiled '60s nostalgia implied by its title, How I Learned to Stop Worrying is a finely crafted, though hardly overwrought, communion of some full-proof touchstones: The Who, Brian Wilson, the Zombies, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Chris Bell-era Big Star.

The album rarely aspires to anything more than a carefree, cushiony embrace of what is fast becoming an outmoded notion — that a hard-rocking band can dress pretty with little threat to its manhood. Always careful to place melody before malady, "Catch & Release," "Threadbare" and "Summer (of Our First Hello)" are as lush as they are brawny. The sound is steered in the latter direction by towering six-string storm swells and the precise drumming of Pat Berkery (think Keith Moon meets Velvet Crush/Matthew Sweet vet Ric Menck). At times, a pleasing lo-fi disposition ambles to the fore, manifested in the sexually repressed boy-next-door vocals of Bret Tobias (guitar) and Scott Jefferson (bass).

And with the Lovers' uncanny ability to mold seemingly unrelated current events to fit their own slightly bent personal agenda ("With the super funds and the come-stained dress/What a mess/No wonder I'm drinking"), rarely has bald-faced nostalgia sounded so bracingly here-and-now.??