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The Push Kings
On Far Places, the second full-length from the Boston-based Push Kings, the band uses age-old tricks -- perky beats, sing-along choruses, sticky-sweet vocal melodies -- to produce pop demihits. But the band rescues what is essentially a McCartneyed retro sound with a light touch of samplers, drum machines, and scratching. Which is to say the Push Kings sound a little bit like the good parts of Hanson. That might seem scary, but it's not nearly as disturbing as it could be. "MMMBop" -- with major help from the Dust Brothers -- was a thrilling piece of AM radio candy. The real problem with Hanson is not that they're irritating, it's that they're undeveloped tykes who haven't experienced adult emotions and therefore can't capture them in song.

The Push Kings, who have a few years on the shiny happy kids in Hanson, write pop love songs in exquisite specifics. On Far Places' "We Don't Have to Say Goodbye Forever," the song title doubles as the chorus, but what begins with a phrase of vague, cliched songwriting turns into a narrative bolstered by a string of particulars in the verse. "You left me in Green River/ You left me in a small town on my own," the singer announces. Maybe it's because I once spent a night in Green River, a fucked-up little town in eastern Utah, but I felt for him. He's stuck because his car broke down and he can't afford the repairs. Already, he's tired of "all the girls who hang around the Westwinds restaurant," and complains that Green River is a town where "in the morning you can get Newsweek but not the L.A. Times." The song encapsulates character, dialogue, setting, and plot in less than 3 1/2 minutes, and then, like the best Push Kings pop songs, pays off with a bittersweet promise: The narrator will eventually get out of town, but he has to keep reminding his love not to say goodbye.

-- Jeff Stark

The Push Kings play Saturday, July 18, at 10 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas). Popsters Beulah and Apples in Stereo spinoff Dressy Bessy open. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.

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