Pepper Sands Pepper Sands

Take one fiery, stylish, strong-voiced lead woman, add three males behind her playing edgy, riff-filled pop rock and throw in a powerful production team, sound like a familiar formula? Hey, at least their name isn't "Trash." Of course there isn't a trademark on Shirley Manson's shtick, nor is emulating it necessarily a bad thing, and there are some variations: Citizen A sometimes shares her vocal duties with one of the guys, for instance, which is, at times, a good thing, as her voice falters when it comes time to slow it down. And they're from Vancouver. Overall, you can tell Pepper Sands is in love with the mid-'90s Brit-pop girl groups from the first notes of opener "Win Big Lose More (Cherries Jubilee)," and besides early Garbage, the wiry punch of Elastica comes to mind, as does Lush on the more dreamy pop moments ("Myth"). It's lacking the ballsy intensity of any of these, but it's a pretty impressive first full-length with potential. For a debut album, this is incredibly slick with polish; the hooks are sharpened to a point and there isn't a scratch in the glossy melodies. Catchy bait that lures easily. (Universal)