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***In ’94 and ’95, ROCK*A*TEENS were a fixture in the Atlanta and Athens scene: KELLY HOGAN towing along her little teacup dog; CHRIS VERENE wearing makeup and pigtails (and a dress, maybe?); and JUSTIN looking like a wet, unfurled flannel shirt. Then there was CHRIS LOPEZ. He was always polite, always cool, but his aloof demeanor underpinned a crushingly shy guy. Who in the hell knew he had this shambolic group the Rock*A*Teens tucked up his sleeve? Flash ahead to 1998. Merge had just released Baby, A Little Rain Must Fall, and around this time, the estimable BALLARD LESEMANN had replaced Chris Verene on drums. Ballard had long been considered the Bun E. Carlos of the Georgia music scene. He had a hard thump on the floor tom, a solid foot on the kick drum, and a flair for being a showman behind the kit. I mean, can you name another drummer who drinks beer during a song? By the time Y2K came along, the band had started work on what would become Sweet Bird of Youth. Chris Lopez composed and recorded the majority of Sweet Bird’s basic tracks on keyboards and guitar at ROB GAL’s studio, and then lugged the tape machine back to their Black Box rehearsal space at the end of Krog Street to finish. Band members Will, Justin, and Lopez would each go in on his own time and add his own flourishes to each track without the others’ knowledge. This unusual hands-off collaboration progressed for months during the spring of 2000. The ladies from ULTRABABYFAT (SHONALI and MICHELLE) laid down Phil Spector-esque backup vocals on “If I Wanted to Be Famous (I’d Have Shot Someone),” and SHANNON WRIGHT sang an achingly spare duet with Chris on “It’s Destiny.” Anthemic. Majestic. Shimmering. Heart-aching brilliance. The Rock*A*Teens focused it all into Sweet Bird of Youth. (STREET DATE - 6/03/2014)