How Stereophonics' sterling 1999 opus Performance & Cocktails (a mega-smash in the band's native U.K.) didn't meet with manic listener approval in the U.S.

How Stereophonics' sterling 1999 opus Performance & Cocktails (a mega-smash in the band's native U.K.) didn't meet with manic listener approval in the U.S. remains a confounding mystery to rock-savvy Anglophiles. Its blend of gritty soul and old-school hard-rock aggression placed it miles above its platinum competitors in sheer quality. With Just Enough Education to Perform, the Welsh band returns in even finer form. While there's little deviation in overall tone between the two sets, the songs here dig deeper. Front man and pri- mary tunesmith Kelly Jones (whose videogenic image is a Total Request Live viewer's dream) has grown into a lyricist of remarkable range. He comfortably darts from melancholy introspection ("Lying in the Sun") to white-knuckled catharsis ("Vegas Two Times"), leading bandmates Stuart Cable and Richard Jones through lean, well-structured, notably fresh arrangements that are equally accessible for rock and top 40 airwaves. Now, if only stateside programmers would put down those Limp Bizkit sound-alikes and listen to a re-cord that truly rocks on its own crea- tive steam.—LF