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Ooberman



The Liverpudlian indie pop ensemble Ooberman is one of the many groups to be anointed as rock messiahs by the British music press in recent years, only to be cast aside when the next big thing came along. Well, they're not the Saviors of Pop Music, nor are they Supermen, despite their goofy name. But they do write some pretty cool songs. Ooberman has a lot in common with those buoyant Welsh merrymakers Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and those enigmatic upstate New Yorkers Mercury Rev. Like said groups, they beautifully balance a kind of wide-eyed childish naïvete with melancholy, seasoned wisdom. They too have a fondness for strange sounds, but melody always reigns supreme. Ooberman crafts peculiar, playful, smart songs that hook you instantly and quickly reel you in.

The quintet grew from a childhood music project known as the Forestry Commission which featured singer and bandleader Dan Popplewell and the brothers Flett, guitarist Andy and bassist Steve. In late 1997 the three friends reunited in Liverpool and added dulcet-voiced songstress and keyboard player Sophie Churney and drummer Jaymie Ireland. Soon they'd released their Shorley Wall EP and the accolades began rolling in, enabling Ooberman to secure a major label deal with the U.K.-based Independiente before releasing their debut LP, The Magic Treehouse. The album's eccentric and sunny power pop earned the group comparisons to heavyweights like Blur and Super Furry Animals, but when the record didn't sell right away, the band found itself without a label.

No matter. The group created their own label, Rotodisc, vowing never to let the music industry interfere with their art again. ROTO 001 is the group's lovely nine-song "mini-album" Running Girl (it's on March Records in the U.S.). Here they quintet has gone all gentle, shimmery, and understated, in contrast to their more boisterous earlier stuff. By turns upbeat, downbeat, and offbeat, never losing the now-trademark Ooberman knack for great melodies and unconventional arrangements.