Ice Cream Hands were responsible for producing three of the most gorgeous pop records of the '90s, even if few outside of the guitar pop cult ever noticed. Instead of opting for reinvention, the band has always favored familiar song structures and textures, even if they play around with them considerably more than their peers by avoiding the obvious repeated chorus line or tossing in intricately constructed bridges. They don't try anything too different on Broken UFO, but what is always impressive about Ice Cream Hands is their ability to write surprisingly relaxed yet incessantly catchy pop music. Broken UFO doesn't have many of the fuzzy guitars found on Memory Lane Traffic Jam, so it may not be as immediate, but it's a record whose charms bloom with each successive listen. It helps that Chuck Jenkins can always be counted on to produce a strong batch of songs, and this time he's trying enough diversity on for size (there is some folk in the title track, Sgt. Peppers-y horns on "Beautiful Fields," and organs on "Happy in the Sky"). There's still plenty of the chunky guitar pop of the band's earlier records, such as on the single "Why'd You Have to Leave Me This Way?" and "Come Down Come Down," but the album's highlight is the beautiful "Rain Hail Shine," a touching devotional drenched with ringing Rickenbackers. Broken UFO's stylistic diversity alone makes it a close contender for the band's best album. There are few better places to go than Broken UFO for smartly written, well-produced pop. [Initial pressings of the album include a bonus disc featuring one track, "Selected Highlights From Broken UFO Parts I & II." Sounding like something straight out of the Pet Sounds sessions, the track is an experimental collage of vocal parts recorded for the album.] -AMG
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