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The Fletcher Pratt 

Our critics' picks in new releases

Detroit is definitely still "Detroit Rock City" if you take the new release by hometown sons The Fletcher Pratt (named for the noted science fiction writer) as proof. Blending retro-psychedelic pop with crashing power chords, high harmonies and enough adrenaline to jumpstart the heart of even the most jaded music fan, their debut Nine By Nine packs a wallop that easily lands this band at the front of the current power-pop band pack. Not only are the hooks here (enough to make Mr. Smith and Coomes worry), there's also skilled musicianship and real power. Nine By Nine, currently lauded by the underground "pop" press, promises to break The Fletcher Pratt out of the genre with the ferocity of a jungle cat.

Nine By Nine reflects the band's love for the production and recording techniques of a time when, according to the band, "records sounded real." The disc also captures the urgency and raw energy of their live performances. Buzzing, up-front guitars, high harmonies, and hyperactive tambourine playing characterize the unrelenting, maniacal pop of Nine By Nine. It's impossible to listen and keep still.

Critical comparisons have been made to The Kinks, The Lilys, and The Replacements, but there's more of The Music Machine and The MC5 here than anything else. Throw in a touch of Superchunk ("Change") and the early Who, and you have an idea of The Fletcher Pratt sound. While guitarists Stephen Palmer and George Dubber share lead vocals, each sings lead on their own compositions; Palmer's perfectly bratty punk shout is the standout, reminiscent of early Elvis Costello. Organ, piano, and theremin round out the instrumentation along with the requisite rhythm section. The Fletcher Pratt, by virtue of their dual songwriters and eclectic influences, explore a wide range of material on Nine By Nine, from the frenzied, balls-to-the-wall garage rock of "Living in the House" to the new wave organ hooks of the power pop-esque "Spin Label."

Nine By Nine may be retro in inspiration and production, but it's an inventive effort and the product of an awesome new talent. In other words, Detroit still kicks rock 'n' roll ass.

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