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Josh Rouse
UNDER COLD BLUE STARS
(RYKODISC/SLOW RIVER)

Stars graphics

Itís more than a little ironic that a Nebraska-born singer/songwriter who opts for understatement and restraint should have grown up worshipping Morrissey. Yet there has always been an undercurrent of pensive yearning and simmering restlessness to Josh Rouseís polished-but-not-quite-ready-for-AAA pop, and thatís what separates him from the scores of tapioca songsmiths out there. Although he has yet to match the precocious wonder of his í98 debut, Dressed Up like Nebraska (Slow River), Blue Stars, his third full-length after a collaborative EP with Lambchopís Kurt Wagner, finds him in fine form. Pastel brush strokes of cello, horns, and keyboards color pop pearls like "Nothing Gives Me Pleasure" and "Miracle"; the title track bustles with the cocktail cool of a turtleneck-wearing Bacharach. Rouse emphasizes the details in the margins, coupling soft-spangled production with a subtle, elliptical storytelling technique. On occasion he recedes too much into the blurred background of his own songs, and when he does, itís all too much of the same thing. But when he hits his mark ó which he does often on Blue Stars ó the results are sublime.

(Josh Rouse plays the Paradiseís front room this Saturday, April 27. Call 617-568-8800.)

BY JONATHAN PERRY

Issue Date: April 25 - May 2, 2002
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