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POP MUSIC REVIEW : England’s Cranes Soar at the Whisky

Wonder of wonders--a young English band that actually is better live than in the studio. The Cranes proved to be that near-miracle Thursday at the Whisky with a show that expanded on and enriched the shifting dynamics of the band’s two albums. The set didn’t exactly reveal any personality secrets about baby-doll-voiced singer Alison Shaw or her three band-mates, who performed amid a haze of stage fog, but musically the Cranes revealed a lot.

This is more sonic pop sculpture than actual rock ‘n’ roll--not exactly urgent, but somewhat compelling nonetheless in ways often associated with the Cocteau Twins or My Bloody Valentine. Constructions by the basic band (anchored by Shaw’s guitarist-pianist-brother Jim and supplemented with some recorded elements at times) swirl and swoop engagingly, saving Shaw’s little voice from wearing too thin.

At its poppiest, the music was almost like Lulu in a fuzzy, hazy kinda way; at its most grandly symphonic it was like some kind of modern liturgical offering. At its best, while never quite reaching the haunting level of the Cocteaus or the gale force of the Valentines, it was transporting.

More earthy, and perhaps more intriguing, was opening act That Dog, recently signed by Geffen Records. The L.A. quartet, featuring two daughters of jazz bassist Charlie Haden and one of Warner Bros. Records president Lenny Waronker, showed itself to be smart, amusing and at times inventive, more or less like a cross of Lush and the Roches. A very promising young band.

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