** 1/2 The Verve Pipe, "The Verve Pipe," RCA. The alternative revolution may have cooled, but the Verve Pipe refuses to give up the fight. On its second album (due Tuesday), the quintet blows up everything to wide-screen proportions. The melodies are grand and triumphant, the guitar sounds puffed-up, the vocals suitably strained and mock-torturous. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it isn't. This band effectively transcends cliche with pop smarts and an arsenal of memorable riffs that rescue its commercial guitar-pop from the blahs.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two (fair), three (good) and four (excellent).
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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.calendarlive.com/soundclips