LISA LOEB Firecracker (Geffen GED 24946)
Lisa Loeb's undergrad cool and suburban beatnik-chick style - particularly as represented on the shagpile-rug cheesecake cover image to Firecracker - belie the true nature of her material, which is essentially as cornily soul-searching as any country-music cliche.

However much she tries to disguise it with a soothing orchestral arrangement, both the scansion and the sentiment of a line like "The time between meeting and finally leaving is sometimes called falling in love" is pure Nashville - and not "New Country", either, but rather the Grandest and Oldest Opry.

Firecracker is full of such moments, its songs almost without exception being about the space between lovers, viewed with the kind of eye for cynical irony that would have a song called "I Do" be about a break-up, rather than a marriage.

It's clever enough stuff to make you overlook the shortfall in musical character for a while, but the self-serving attitude ultimately grows tedious.

Variations on the phrase "you don't know" figure in several songs, recurrent accusations of male incomprehension which - these things being two-way affairs - also serve as an index of her own desire for faulty communication: the subtext here, I think, is Loeb's struggle to preserve her mystery, as if in revelation lies loss of identity. Fair enough, but why keep blaming someone else?