Picks and Pans Review: Songs from the Rain

updated 04/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Hothouse Flowers

U2 isn't the only Dublin band fascinated by American roots music. But while Rattle and Hum, the supergroup's 1988 exploration of blues and gospel, was reverential, Hothouse Flowers integrate American gospel persuasively into their Celtic rock.

The best moments on the quintet's third album could be highlights from a fire-and-brimstone church gathering. Although the band's messianic spirit is likely to incite further comparisons to U2, the Flowers prefer homespun simplicity to the older band's urban sheen. At the pulpit, vocalist Liam O'Maonlai delivers evangelical fervor ("Be good, be kind, be truthful, and feel free") with a wide-eyed optimism that the message is achievable. Featuring such vintage instruments as bouzouki, mandolin and bodhran (an Irish goatskin drum), "Thing of Beauty" and "Spirit of the Land" rumble joyously like impromptu jams, and "Gypsy Fair" wears shades of C&W. Songs' sole misstep, "Emotional Time," sounds like Bryan Ferry crooning sweet nothings in a Hawaiian lounge. But that one blemish doesn't dull Flowers' bloom. (London/Polygram)

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