Local Wire

Fine China

The first thing you'll say when you see the band shot on this CD is, "These guys need more sleep and less makeup." Then you'll slip on Fine China's disc and get a solid 44 minutes of first-rate melancholia. It shouldn't work that singer Robert Withem can evoke such empathy from listeners with a limited number of notes at his disposal and a marble-mouthed delivery, but the writing and sharp word play make him sound like Colin Blunstone of the Zombies at his most considerate. There's not a duff track on this masterful follow-up to You Make Me Hate Music, and a few haunt the heart for literally days afterward, including "Rated-R Movie," one of the best sounds I've heard anywhere in a long time, and the slightly more sing-along "Skull and Crossbones," where Withem laments, "I ain't Andy Warhol, I'm not thunderstruck." You know Hedwig would've given his angry inch to come up with this one. And fans of rejection, it doesn't get any more bittersweet than someone telling you, "Everybody knows that it's not love/Are you on drugs?" (www.myspace.com/finechina or www.youmakemehatemusic.com/)