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FRANZ FERDINAND Franz Ferdinand ****

Call them pretentious fashioncore new-wave dance maniacs grasping onto the coattails of the current electro-pop craze. Call them art snobs. Call them the New Mod. But you can’t call them despicable. Franz Ferdinand sound like The Rapture, Duran Duran and They Might Be Giant’s “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” rolled into one. They started two illegal Kilby-Court-like warehouse venues, both called The Chateau, (one in an abandoned Victorian courthouse!), in Glasgow a couple years ago. After those were shut down, guess they figured world domination was a strong second choice. (Domino/Sony)

VARIOUS Spin the Bottle: An All-Star Tribute to Kiss ***

It doesn’t matter that most of the musicians on this album auditioned for, toured with, opened for, or were huge fans of Kiss. They aren’t Kiss. But in all fairness, they pull off their tribute duties pretty well. And hearing Lemmy (Motorhead) sing “You gotta have a party” on “Shout it Out Loud” is just plain cute. Other appearances include Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Page Hamilton (Helmet), Buzz Osbourne (Melvins) and C.C. Deville (Poison). (Koch)

THE DAMNWELLS Bastards of the Beat ***

Americana pop dusted over with trumpets, organ and piano, grounded by soft drumming, mellifluous vocals, slide guitar and just the right amount of twang makes a perfect soundtrack for stopping at a mom ‘n’ pop gas station along the peaceful yellow back roads of Kansas. The Elected and Pete Yorn would be sitting in the back seat, keeping time. The ringing guitar in “Sleepsinging” cracks open your soul like a clam. (Epic)

Hello Hong Kong *

What’s up with album-cover crotch shots? There’s only one good song on Hello Hong Kong, and of course, it’s the first track and their big radio-hit single (“Radar”). This pinprick of light possesses the garage-y virility of the Von Bondies minus the authenticity. The rest of the album, however, is a dreary amalgamation of three-chord, sunshiney pop-punk—think MxPx or Space Cadet. Plus, they look like a buncha gimps. (TVT)

VARIOUS Oprah’s Pop Star Challenge:

Dreams Really Do Come True *

Mommy, make them go away. American culture has plummeted to an all-time low with the release of this groveling album. It’s bad enough that American Idol exists, let alone that there are people sheep-like and unfulfilled enough to watch it, but now ... karaoke contests? Dreams catalogues 14 sickening Muzak tracks with Oprah’s eight overtly Christian finalists singing along. The winner, Lashell Griffin, is the best, with Theressa Rupert a close second. (Epic)

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Rebecca Vernon

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