Pop: Maniacs on cute alert

10,000 Maniacs, `More Than This' (Geffen)

Strictly speaking, the band is now 10,000 Maniacs minus one. In 1993, Natalie Merchant left the Maniacs to pursue a solo career, causing many to worry about the future (see their fans' millennium-style hysteria on the Internet).

"More Than This" has replacement vocalist Mary Ramsey singing to a gentle guitar-driven love song. But Natalie Merchant would not approve. As an older Alanis Morissette - more worldly and less self-absorbed - she sung songs about love, but for a brother going to war, or for an unborn child. Always complex, her lyrics and cigarette-rough voice took island rhythms and folkie melodics to a level far away from easy listening.

"More Than This" is pop that'll find you singing. It's a Fleetwood Mac ballad for the Nineties, with lighter guitar and percussion and cutesy vocals.

Merchant, however, would have had you wailing in the shower.

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