Picks and Pans Review: Spilt Milk

updated 04/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Jellyfish

The deep-sided sandbox of two talented 27-year-old San Franciscans, Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning, Jellyfish is a band driven by an ebullient love of pop and rock's whole gonzo arsenal of expression and a determination to craft every song into a fully loaded, to-the-max, minimasterpiece. Spilt Milk, the band's second album, gives you flickers of Queen, Squeeze, Supertramp, bubblegum and the Beatles, to name a few, but the influences all get refracted in the fun-house mirror of Jellyfish's nonstop celebration of melody, vocal harmony and conceptual lavishness.

Spilt Milk is hard to summarize because its 12 cuts are so varied, yet it all hangs together. The album opens with "Hush," a lullaby of almost Disney-esque intensity, sung in multipart harmony, then moves into a swashbuckling arena-rock fantasy about teenage adulation, "Joining a Fan Club." Even within songs, tempos and rhythms change, the band shades from a whisper to a wall of sound. Chimes toll over a plinking banjo for a few key bars. Tubas, alto flutes and other instruments sweep in as needed. While digital sampling turns rap into a recycling center for old riffs, and drum machines make dance floors robotic, Jellyfish goes for epic scale and soaring emotion on every cut and parachutes to safety each time, bobbing on the waves like a jellyfish, and stinging like one too. (Charisma)

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