Philadelphia rock outfit, The Bigger Lovers, brought an intriguing new wrinkle to power pop with their debut LP, 2001’s How I Learned to Stop Worrying, summoning up a palpably eerie and unsettled vibe directly at odds with the idiom’s characteristically sunny disposition. Honey in the Hive (2002) sounded fuller but somewhat more conventional, resulting from the crisp production of Thom Monahan (Pernice Brothers).
This Affair Never Happened…, their third album, produced by Honey engineer Brian McTear, appears to be a compulsive reaction to its predecessor’s sheen—it’s determinedly raw, with certain tracks sounding like the demos of some anonymous punk-pop combo, others resembling boom-box rehearsal tapes. But by throwing the record away, the Lovers do themselves, their fans and their songs no favors. On certain tracks—particularly the Fountains of Wayne-ish “Ninja Suit,” the Big Star-flavored “Peel It Away” and the hazed-out “Hollywood,” which recalls Neil Young & Crazy Horse circa Zuma—the band hints at the heights of which it is all-too-capable, rendering the wrong-headedness of its present course all the more maddening. C’mon, guys, quit messing around and show us what you’ve got.