That Thing You Do! (Tom Hanks's cheery movie look at '60s pop music) benefited from a sparkling title track written by 29-year-old New York musician Adam Schlesinger. Now we know how that sound, updated to the '90s, would work: brilliantly. Schlesinger and collaborator Chris Collingwood have produced a first album studded with smart-funny lyrics, amiable melodies toughened up by gravelly guitars, and more hooks than a Peter Pan audition.
The nice guys in these songs fret over the women they know (the sweet-and-sour "She's Got a Problem"), especially when they end up with not-nice guys (the stutter-stepping "Leave the Biker"). In the tradition of such gifted songwriting duos as Lennon/McCartney and Difford/Tilbrook, Schlesinger and Collingwood turn out gems of close observation, whether tracking the life of a secretary ("making the scene with the coffee and cream" in "Sick Day") or a lovelorn girl ("Barbara H."). The latter, we have been told, "hates songs that never seem to go away." Barbara is going to hate this irresistible album. (Scratchie/TAG/Atlantic)