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Nonsuch

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Steamy dance rock in a north- of-England style — the Manchester Sound — just keeps a-comin’: If you’re not familiar with it, think nuclear-strength disco with heavily psychedelicized instrumentation and a thrift store’s worth of rock & roll homages. Its progenitor is XTC, whose psychedelia is more pop than dance. But it’s hard to imagine XTC’s smart, new-wave sensibility didn’t influence a lot of these new bands. Nonsuch is the now-veteran trio’s first album since 1989’s well- received Oranges & Lemons, and it, too, is a kaleidoscopic, highly intelligent collection of off-kilter pop craft that goes on a bit too long. At its best, however, it’s a witty and engaging White Album-ish collection of fairy tales and funny stories (”The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead,” ”Crocodile”). Leading the regional pack are the Charlatans UK, whose second album, Between 10th and 11th, consolidates the band’s riveting, hypnotic attack, all musical tips o’ the hat to the ’60s and ’70s, smeared over a smorgasbord of unrelenting dance beats and topped with hook (”I Don’t Want to See the Sights”) after hook (”Weirdo”). If the Charlatans would be voted most likely to succeed, the Soup Dragons are the kids who look over others’ shoulders at exam time, and still get the answers wrong. Hotwired, their third album, is unoriginal musically and almost unhappily banal lyrically. Nonsuch: B+ Between 10th and 11th: A- Hotwired: C-