talent, strong pop tunes, impish voice

Jill Sobule (Lava/Atlantic)
Jill Sobule

By Allen Howie

With all the fuss over Jill Sobule's buoyant single, "I Kissed a Girl," you can almost see her prospects diminishing. Quirkiness may be a great way to get attention, but it rarely makes for a long career, even when there's talent beneath the surface. If you don't believe it, give Cyndi Lauper a ring. She's probably home.

It's tragic, too, because like Lauper, Sobule has a lot going for her. Her debut album is a strong collection of offbeat pop tunes that are as catchy as they come, all wrapped up in the affecting fragility of her impish voice.

Sobule wrote or co-wrote all twelve tracks here, holding odd fragments of odd lives up to the light to see what truths can be found among the silliness and the contradictions. And it works, especially in the strangely sympathetic "Margaret," the sensuous pulse of "Couple on the Street" and the giddy "Karen By Night."

Nor is Sobule afraid to turn that brittle light on herself. Songs like "Good Person Inside," the lovely "Houdini's Box" and "The Jig Is Up" reveal more about the singer (and probably the listener) than we're used to hearing on records that are this much fun to play.

In fact, Sobule's playfulness is her greatest charm, breathing life into the imaginary characters who wander with her through numbers like "Resistance Song" and the sweet spareness of "Trains." In the fickle marketplace that makes stars and discards them in the same motion, Sobule's peculiar perspective may someday work against her, but it makes her debut album a delight.