Review: sparkle*jets u.k.

sparkle*jets u.k.
“Bamboo Lounge”
(Smile Records)

The first thing about “Bamboo Lounge” that really grabs your attention is its cool packaging: loud colors and a lounge theme capped off brilliantly with a cocktail umbrella (provide your own girl drink) fitted into the spine of the album.  The second thing that will grab you is singer Susan West, whose voice ranges from a fingernails-on-chalkboard falsetto (“A Pretty One”) to a deep bellow (“They Shoot Square Dancers, Don’t They?”) to most everything in between.  Although Mike Simmons, who shares the singing chores with West, is quite capable on his own, the spotlight is squarely on her.  Behind West, sparkle*jets u.k. play clever guitar pop with a new wavish influence, minus the synthesizers.  A press release mentions the B-52’s as a touchstone, but the sparkle*jets are a bit less groove-oriented, even if their vibe is comparable to the band named after a plane.  “Bamboo Lounge” drags at times, but you can sense the energy from a band that must play a sweet live show.