Puffy AmiYumi Nice

Japanese power-pop duo Puffy AmiYumi returns to this side of the pond with another slickly produced and irresistibly catchy full-length effort. Band mastermind (and former Jellyfish drummer) Andy Strummer puts his charges Ami and Yumi through their hardest hitting motions yet with several tracks picking up on the cha-ching punk tip of Avril Lavigne, et al. The rest is a typical (for Puffy, at least) mélange of styles ranging from Beatle-esque pop and progressive folk fare, to ska and Weezer/Ocasek-style keyboard rock. A pair of ballads ultimately come off as disposable as dull razor blades, though readers versed in the band’s tongue are bound to get more out of them. There are three English language tracks here — the most for a Puffy release thus far. One of them, "Teen Titans,” (which is apparently earmarked for theme duty on the forthcoming Cartoon Network show of the same name) owes a considerable debt of inspiration to the P. F. Sloan classic, "Secret Agent Man.” That ought to surprise exactly no one, though, as the band has made an unabashed habit of trading in the highest form of flattery. (Sony)