Middle States Happy Fun Party

Big Star's three LPs have been a musical touchstone ever since R.E.M. dropped Chronic Town on the world. Three decades later and the bands influenced by the Memphis trio could occupy their own sub-genre. Middle States, a vehicle for Wes Morden's sharp songwriting, offer a worthy addition the club with Happy Fun Party, a record that teams Big Star's sun-kissed harmonies with the booze soaked characters that inhabit Paul Westerberg's best songs. Out of the gates, Morden lays out his modus operandi, proclaiming "I'm in charge" over a riff copped from a Posies record, but then seemingly contradicts himself on "No Curse, No Drunk, No Fight," offering a compromise to win back an estranged lover. Middle States borrow and steal from a litany of sources (see the "Happy Jack" aping verses in "No Curse, No Drunk, No Fight") but Morden's influences never overshadow the hooks. Happy Fun Party doesn't break any moulds but that's not to say Middle States' next record won't. (Effen)