POOR RICH ONES Happy Happy Happy (Rec 90)

Poor Rich Ones are a Norwegian band, whose third album, "Happy Happy Happy", was released in their homeland nearly two years ago, and only now makes it into British record shops, with the addition of a bonus track, "Drown". And I have to admit that it's very close to fabulous: so many mainland European groups seem to suffer from an air of not-quiteness that hampers their complete appreciation on this rain-washed isle. Recent examples of this phenomenon to come my way include Miles and Amstrong, but it can be traced back through time to the likes of Bettie Serveert and beyond. Poor Rich Ones manage to turn this endemic alienness to their advantage, bundling it all up as part of a package that references the experimentation of late period Radiohead as much as the frantic polyrhythms of Talking Heads' "Fear Of Music", creating a fascinating whole. Consider the comparatively straight-laced but excellent alt.country of the new Jolene album reviewed elsewhere in this issue, but booted into outer space, and you're in the same stratosphere as Poor Rich Ones. Their sound is made eerier still by William's vocals, which track the high-pitched style of Geddy Lee and Jon Anderson almost to the last quiver. To hear this addictive amalgam at its finest, skip on through to track 10, "Clumsy", five minutes of downhill-skiing operatic climaxes that sear the heart. And to appreciate the sly humour that lurks behind what might sound like a cold and glacial surface, observe the wry line in opening track "Twins", "This next album us my first". Poor Rich Ones make marvellous, thinking-person pop, and you would be the poorer for ignoring it.