The next great torchbearers of American power-pop may well be from Sweden. On The Merrymakers' sophomore album (released elsewhere in 1997 and already a big hit in Japan), the group captures the style nearly perfectly, from swelling choruses to sentiments perfectly suited for sing-along pop songs and nowhere else. Best example of both: the chorus to "Superstar," which repeats, "Don't let go superstar / Let it show who you are / Don't let go superstar / That's what you are." It's pop at its (superficially) simplest and catchiest, but there's a smartness and sophistication beneath the surface that never lets the music seem dispensable. The duo has also chosen its influences wisely, from the Michael Penn-like "Under The Light Of The Moon" to the crisp production by Jellyfish frontman Andy Sturmer. Bubblegun peters out toward the end, but for at least its first two-thirds, it's near brilliant. Also included is a second disc of selections from the group's 1995 debut, and while that material isn't quite as strong, it certainly suggests that The Merrymakers' second album could be pretty great. It is.

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