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Little Champions



Seattle's Little Champions combine the best facets of intricate indie rock and dance-around-the-kitchen pop into songs that will make you do the shimmy shimmy shake no matter where you are. Guitar lines intertwine Polvo-like around clever boy-girl vocals -- which sound like the best possible cross between Versus and The B-52s -- while perky keyboards bounce below. The lyrics are always in the foreground, snapping and sparkling with intelligence. The result is smart pop for math rock fans, show tunes for imaginary productions, liquid rock that sticks in your brain.

Three of Little Champions' four members -- keyboardist/bassist Becky Harbine, guitarist Scott Harbine, and guitarist Fred Stuben -- write and sing, adding wonderfully complex textural layers to the songs. Chris Shymko, the drummer on 1999's Pillow (Barsuk Records), has since been replaced by Kate Kinney, who used to be in Foxmange with Becky Harbine.

Some Little Champions songs are meant for the summer, for endlessly repeating while driving around will all the car windows open. "Pillow Ass," for example, from Pillow, is the perfect summer song. Its intoxicating blend of guitar jangle and keyboard hum will send you skipping around the room faster than you can say "infectious melodies." If it doesn't, there may be no hope for you. But to fixate only on "Pillow Ass" would be a shame, since the rest of Pillow is quite fine as well. "Solvents" is subtly catchy, laced with hypnotic Casio tones and soaring vocals. "All the Famous People that You Know" combines layers of simple guitar, tight percussion, and vocal harmonies into a delicate and somber pop song.

And you know, if Pillow ain't enough for you, well there's more where that came from. Little Champions' 2001 sequel effort, Transactions + Replicatons, features more of the inventive arrangements, perky boy-girl harmonies, and rollicking rhythms that endeared the band to fans of upbeat indie rock the first time round. "Beverly," for instance, sounds like a younger, hipper B-52s doing post-punk show tunes. "The Idiot Seat" combines catchy yelled vocals and propulsive Southern rock guitars. "Our Furnace," the record's penultimate track, is melancholy and restrained, but still has plenty of that trademark Little Champions bounce.

The longer you listen to Little Champions, the more you appreciate their masterful, hooky, good-natured pop. Given a chance, these songs will worm their way straight into your spleen. So go ahead, give 'em a chance. What are you afraid of?