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Luckie Pierre

It takes a lot to overcome a bad band name. It takes even more to overcome a bad band name, a bad song title, bad lyrics, and by-the-numbers guitar pop. So when Arnold turns the two minutes and not many more chords of its self-titled EP’s “Wild Colonial Girl” (representative line: “She got curves in all the right places”) into something that should have been on Radio City, it’s altogether miraculous. Of course, the London-by-way-of-Stockwell quintet, named for bassist Phil Payne’s dog, has been praying to the gods of melodic melancholy for a while now, in one form or another: The members of the even-worse-named Arnold-to-be Patio came together after hearing a re-formed Big Star play at a British rock festival in the early ’90s. They’ve been Chiltonian acolytes ever since, but main songwriters Mark Saxby, Phil Morris, and Payne have always mixed their power pop with a healthy portion of pastoral folk—not to mention an unhealthy dose of psychedelia, both classic and contemporary. On Arnold, these styles come together least effectively on “Sweet Sweet Sweet Nothing,” a stutter-beat-driven lament that begins with a graceless quatrain (“I must apologize/To my body and my brain/I must apologize/For doing these things to you again”) and ends with an even more graceless guitar solo (150 interminable seconds of bluesy, high-in-the-mix wankery). Much more successful are the shuffling, string-laden “You’re a Star,” which grafts a ’70s-ified stacked-high chorus onto a Madchester-style dance-floor number, and the languid, low-key “God Knows,” which drops a lovely little piano melody among about a thousand chittering, flittering, hither-and-tithering guitar lines. But the best of this five-song lot is the lazy, hazy love song “South.” “All the years I never knew you/When you lived down in the South/I was just another dreamer/With cheap food in his mouth,” sings Saxby, as a trad-simple six-string jangles away behind him. By the time he gets to “I haven’t finished falling over/And you know I never will” a minute later and the guitar turns ever-so-slightly biting, the song has become so effortlessly Arnold-esque that you wonder why the band ever had to overcome anything. —Leonard Roberge