Sitting Around Keeping Score (Star Trak/Arista)

It's a given that Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, a.k.a. the Neptunes, a.k.a. N.E.R.D., are one dynamic producing duo -- just listen to the slippery, sweaty funk and roll they splashed all over hits by Nelly, Britney Spears, and 'N Sync, among others. But based on their discovery of Spymob, the backing band that played on N.E.R.D.'s debut, In Search of . . . , their A&R skills deserve equal props.

Spymob's debut is the sound of a finely honed bar band weaned on Todd Rundgren, Kansas, Steely Dan, Elton John, and other richly produced 1970s radio rockers -- minus the grandiose sense of self-importance. (Score's first single, "It Gets Me Going," is written from the point of view of the family dog.) Spring-loaded guitar chords uncoil on "Thinking of Someone Else," frisky piano pogos through the blue-eyed soul of "Stand Up and Win," and the title track features a potent classic-rock cocktail of squealing keyboards, falsetto vocals, and shuffling handclaps. Hip-pop crowds slithering to the Neptunes' watery beats won't find much overlap with Spymob's pristine pop rock -- except in the way both parties successfully create music that's undeniably fun, infectious, and completely deserving of massive success.


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