*** EMF “Schubert Dip” <i> EMI</i>

The broad, knowing inflection of Mick Jagger on “Memo From Turner” . . . the bile of the early Who . . . the density and drive of contemporary eclectics like Jesus Jones. . . . That’s the way EMF’s hit single “Unbelievable” comes across, its exuberant riffs and dynamic shifts prodding singer James Atkin as his complex of complaints is repeatedly reduced to the title exclamation.

As great singles sometimes do, “Unbelievable” tends to overshadow the music that surrounds it on EMF’s debut album, but the English quintet still makes a pretty engaging first impression. Its guitar-fronted rock is agitated with clattering rhythms, the hooks are catchy, and the band is funkier.

If the sound is sometimes a bit synthetic, Atkin is always around to provide brash and real personality. He sings with some of the naturalism and playfulness of the Cure’s Robert Smith--with a certain aliveness to the moment. The way he repeatedly crams the word particularly into the churn of “I Believe” reflects a refreshing bravado, and the heave-ho rap in “Unbelievable” is state-of-the-parting.

Speaking of which . . . most of the songs describe romantic rifts, and though this is a young band, EMF’s bitterness rings truer than its occasional idealism. That might be the best sign of all for the future.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic).