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Purveying that other New York sound (not the Velvet Underground/CBGB's-subway rumble kind, but rather the pointedly self-conscious, artfully eclectic variety) has long been Sue Garner and Rick Brown's specialty. Their collective musical pedigree, far too extensive to detail here, includes such seminal arty outfits as Fish & Roses and Run On. In both bands, Garner and Brown freely indulged their avant-garde tendencies within a decidedly indie rock framework. The results, while often intellectually pleasing, failed to capture much of that good ol' rock 'n' roll passion.

To some extent, Garner worked out these kinks with her 1998 solo debut To Run More Smoothly. By concentrating squarely on the songs and her ethereal voice, she proved that real warmth flowed beneath the cerebral sheen. Still is even better. An expansive testament to home recording and restless imaginations, the album exudes a warmly inviting made-next-door ambiance. And while it meanders all over the stylistic map, from the Roxy Music-esque "Synthbug" to the pulsating "Asphalt Road," to the organized racket of "Fussy Fuss," Garner and Brown never sacrifice song or melody for artistic indulgences. In short it is a real rarity: a smart album that's also actually fun to listen to.

Sue Garner and Rick Brown perform during WREK's benefit show, Fri., April 21, at the Earl.


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