One of the great bands of the Britpop era, Dodgy combined stunning three-part harmonies with expert musicianship and a keen ear for killer hooks in the songwriting department. That they never made it in the States is one of the great mysteries of ’90s music, but the group was massive in the U.K., charting 12 singles between 1993 and 1998. Their masterpiece was the band’s second album, Homegrown. Released just as Britpop was exploding in 1994, the album is a perfect combination of ebullient pop gems, stomping rock tunes and haunting ballads.

The disc begins with three minutes of pure pop heaven – the rollicking “Staying Out for the Summer.” The track is the perfect crystallization of all the elements that made (and make – they’ve recently reunited) Dodgy such a special act. Nigel Clark’s vocals are a perfect blend of John Lennon and Carl Wilson, with just a hint of Chris Difford for good measure. Clark and his two cohorts, guitarist Andy Miller and drummer Mathew Priest (that’s Priest on the high parts), deliver glorious three-part harmonies that lift a very good rock song into the realms of all-time greats. Miller’s wah-blistered rave up at the end seals the case for this track as the ultimate summer song.

“Melodies Haunt You” pulls back the reins a bit with an acoustic-colored groove that somehow steers into a dancey, horn-kissed track. The song breaks down halfway through with a bit of harmonies serving as the gateway to another fluid Miller solo. Like Shed Seven’s Paul Banks, Miller is one of the great under-appreciated guitarists of ’90s U.K. indie music. Throughout the disc, his tasteful but dexterous fills and leads contribute mightily to the cause. “Melodies” concludes with a classic Dodgy sing-along chorus that could play ’til the end of time on the live stage.

“So Let Me Go Far” is a more atmospheric track, at least initially. With drums and ambient noise rising to a swell, the group launch into a moody opening verse showcasing Clark’s soulful bass (think Paul McCartney meets James Jamerson at a chips shop). A little over a minute in, though, another gloriously harmonized chorus launches, but just as it threatens to take off, we dive back into the moody atmosphere of the verse. After the next chorus sweeps through, the song almost completely pulls back, before launching into another masterful Miller wah-charged solo. Finally, at the end, the band finally commits fully to the glorious chorus. Taken as a whole, it is a masterful exercise in pacing.

“Crossroads,” again, dials the mood back just a bit, but still shimmers in classic pop harmonies. The track also manages to surprise, with a perfectly executed Spanish horn piece at the end, amid the ringing guitar fills and filtered vocals. The song is counterbalanced by the sing-song “One Day,” which follows. With lyrics a bit more playful than elsewhere on the record (think late ’60s Kinks), “One Day” skillfully weaves layers of guitar and vocal flourishes into a trippy tapestry. It stands as one of the many showcases for sonic-minded producer Hugh Jones (The Charlatans, Echo & the Bunnymen).

Again, the band know right when to slow the proceedings back down. “We are Together” is a more torchy love song that amazingly works its way into an almost anthemic chorus. Clark seems to sense that this track, in particular, evokes deeper audience emotion and delivers his best vocal performance on the record, shredding it for the cause. Miller complements him with a fluttering bluesy solo.

With the romance finished, the band plow into a trio of killer (and bouncy!) pop gems. First up is “Whole Lot Easier,” which finds Priest doing his best Keith Moon amid the now-familiar sunshiny vocal harmonies. “Making the Most Of” is a worthy sister track for “Staying Out for the Summer.” A bit more socially conscious, it nevertheless delivers a bouncy, hook-laden chorus and a horn section that foreshadows the band’s most famous track, “Good Enough,” released two years later. “Waiting for the Day” completes the trio with a groovy, finger-popping lead-in that gives way to some of the tightest harmonies on the album. The most remarkable moment in the song happens about two minutes in, when the dance groove surrenders to a moody, super-charged guitar solo by Miller, with Clark and Priest practically exploding behind him. No other band in their right mind would bury three tracks this strong toward the bottom of an album, but then the boys in Dodgy always did dance to a different drummer.

“What Have I Done Wrong?” is the perfect digestif after the three-course meal of top-shelf pop. A quiet intimate track, it is the most personal moment on the album. Stripped down to just Clark and an acoustic, “What Have I Done Wrong?” is more than just a ballad. It is a quiet before the storm…

With due respect to the glorious pop of “Staying Out for the Summer” and “So Let Me Go Far,” the highlight of Homegrown is the closing track. “Grassman” is the slow burn of a man completely and gloriously immolated by love. The epic rises, bit by bit, with little hints of what is to come – a hi-hat here, a bass walk there – until it explodes into a monster chorus, complete with Dark Side of the Moon-like backing vocals from the London Community Gospel Choir. Miller dives into the fray with his most brutal solo of the set. Fuzzed out almost beyond recognition, he takes the song as high as it can go, where it then crests into a perfectly timed, gloriously optimistic bridge, until ultimately the song descends back to almost nothing. Clark takes one chorus alone with a few scattered piano notes to keep the track alive, before the chorus kicks into a final overdrive from which it never escapes. As the dying strains eventually fade out, the listener is left dazed and enraptured. It takes a tiny denouement 30 seconds later to remind us to be on our way.

I’ve thrown around a lot of hyperbole in this piece. Let me just say, all of it is deserved. It’s almost criminal that this album and this band didn’t crack the States. If you are a fan of undeniable hooks, killer harmonies and staggering musicianship, this will be your new favorite album. Find it.

Dodgy, Homegrown (1994)

1. “Staying Out for the Summer”
2. “Melodies Haunt You”
3. “So Let Me Go Far”
4. “Crossroads”
5. “One Day”
6. “We are Together”
7. “Whole Lot Easier”
8. “Making the Most Of”
9. “Waiting for the Day”
10. “What Have I Done Wrong?”
11. “Grassman”