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`WOODFACE’ IS A PIECE OF CAKE FOR CROWDED HOUSE

SHARE `WOODFACE’ IS A PIECE OF CAKE FOR CROWDED HOUSE

Reviews of recent rock and pop recordings:CROWDED HOUSE; "Woodface" (Capitol Records). * * *

When their 1988 release "Temple of Low Men" was all but ignored by consumers, Australia's most Beatlesque pop group, Crowded House, didn't take it too personally.Instead, the trio regrouped and added former Split Enz leader Tim Finn to its lineup. Not too coincidentally, Finn is also the older brother of Crowded House leader Neil Finn, another former Split Enz-er. Tim's addition didn't just mean an extra guitar or harmony vocals, it also meant a return to the well-crafted pop the Finns once recorded.

The group's lyrics haven't lost any of their sting, though, as evidenced by the first single, "Chocolate Cake." While it makes fun of both Andrew Lloyd Webber and American apathy, it has pop hooks as irresistible as the confection they describe.

Elsewhere, some songs verge on the edge of blandness, but gems like "Fall at Your Feet" and the gorgeous "Four Seasons in One Day" illustrate that pop music can also be smart music.EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL; "Worldwide" (Atlantic Records). * * *

It's hard to imagine why yuppies haven't made this English duo an overnight success. Their lush style mixes the jazz-pop flavorings of Sade with the mild R&B fusion of Carly Simon.

What really makes the band distinctive, though, is Tracey Thorn's attractive and appealing vocals. Let's hope they ensure the duo won't stay anonymous forever.

The duo's new album mixes the smooth soul of 1990's "The Language of Life" with the folky feel of 1988's "Idlewild." Fortunately, "Worldwide" opts much of the time for the latter style, as lovely numbers like "Old Friends" and "You Lift Me Up" utilize simple piano accompaniment to support Thorn's soaring vocals.

Though letting Ben Watt sing the bright "Talk to Me Like the Sea" is a miscalculation, there are enough winners here to get the group back on track.FISHBONE; "The Reality of My Surroundings" (Columbia Records). * * * *

While other "black-rock" bands have been garnering all the press (especially with a Black Rock Coalition compilation being released in October), L.A.'s Fishbone has let its music speak louder than its words.

The band is one of rock's true chameleons, blending elements of funk, punk, hard-rock and ska into a cohesive and satisfying whole. Fishbone has great songwriters. The groove-heavy scorcher "Sunless Saturday" is an environmentally correct look at doomsday and "Fight the Youth" deplores the rise of today's youth gangs.

But the album is never too gloomy or depressing, despite the presence of anti-drug odes as well. In fact, this album is a sometimes joyful and playful romp that just goes to show that good rock 'n' roll has nothing to do with the color of one's skin.PETER HOLSAPPLE & CHRIS STAMEY; "Mavericks" (RNA Records). * * * 1/2

Does anyone out there remember the dB's?

Unfortunately, the only notoriety that wonderful Southern rock combo is likely to get is a note that former leader Peter Holsapple is R.E.M.'s adjunct fifth member when the band plays live.

"Mavericks" reunites Holsapple with Chris Stamey - who first formed the dB's in the late 1970s. The two were responsible for some of the finest power pop in the '80s. On this release, the two have opted for a more folky and personal feel.

The poppy "Angels" leads off the release magnificently, and a cover of the Byrds' "Here Without You" is also well done. And though Stamey's numbers sometimes have a gloomy air, Holsapple's bright folk helps buoy things up considerably.