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Have you always wanted to play in a band, but felt stymied by the fact that you've never picked up a musical instrument? Dealership offers hope. The San Francisco trio was founded by a pair of UC Berkeley composition students, Chris Groves and Chris Wetherell, who wanted to dabble in pop music. Wetherell blew a student loan check on band gear and Dealership's foundation was laid. After a couple of months playing as a drums-and-bass duo, they wisely decided they needed a guitarist. Enter fellow student Jane Pinckard. Now Jane could play a mean piano, but she'd never picked up a guitar before. That was OK with Chris and Chris -- after all, bassist Groves's previous experience was with a standup bass in high school orchestra, while drummer Wetherell was trained as a saxophonist. As Jane learned how to play, the trio simultaneously learned how to write songs together, developing their distinctive brand of idiosyncratic, tunefully noisy, and utterly delicious pop music.

Not beholden to any particular style or scene (one definite advantage self-taught rookies have over jaded pop music veterans), Dealership taps diverse musical approaches, from sugar sweet twee to slacker college rock to lo-fi bedroom fuzz to enjoyably snotty pop-punk, without ever giving you the feeling that they're overtly aligning themselves with a particular genre. Whether they're in noisemaking mode or hushed mode, the trio's combination of intricate boy/girl vocal parts and an endless supply of buzzing guitar hooks makes them as cuddly and fun as can be.

The trio introduced itself to the world in 1998 with an EP called Secret American Livingroom, which earned the band a fair measure of critical praise and spots at San Francisco's Noise Pop festival and New York's CMJ. Dealership put out a seven-inch, Mere Mortal, in 2000, but the group's much-anticipated debut album, TV Highway to the Stars, didn't appear until late 2001. The outstanding 14-song effort is available from Keiki.