You probably weren't looking for a bridge between the Flaming Lips and Train, but Wheat
has graced your life with it anyway on Per Second, Per Second, Per Second...Every Second
, its major-label debut. Reuniting with genius Lips producer Dave Fridmann (who produced Wheat's 2000 breakthrough Hope and Adams
), the band has made the sort of suburban, narrative pop album that you might expect from any of its new labelmates on Aware Records or from a songwriter such as Tom Petty. What keeps this from being music to drive the kids to soccer by is that Wheat and Fridmann have filled in the holes of the twelve adult-radio-friendly songs with sonic flourishes that could have wandered off one of Fridmann's artsier projects, balancing out every "woo-hoo-hoo-hoo" with a backward guitar riff.
The members of Wheat, who hail from Massachusetts and can probably match the Strokes for the total number of NME press clippings by an American band, started out much slower on their 1998 debut Medeiros, but they've been drifting closer to pop ever since, and it suits them well. Charismatic singer Ricky Brennan sounds a little like an American Richard Ashcroft, and at least a third of Second will be lodged in your head for the next year (especially the bouncy, Blur-esque "Closer to Mercury"). Longtime fans might think Wheat is slumming by moving into John Mayer's neighborhood, but this is closer to urban renewal; the band is moving in to fix things up and make them interesting again.