The leader of the Beatifics, Chris Dorn, is a brilliant songwriter, not only because his songs are exemplary, but because he's the first person to successfully marry pop melodies with a sturdy rootsiness without sacrificing one ounce of sweetness.

It's obvious how Dorn "Learned To Stop Worrying"- he decided that it's better to bear his soul in his music than to sit around fretting about broken relationships, a subject that is internalized throughout the songs on this CD. Dorn has one of the sweetest, most engaging voices you'll hear in pop music, and his songs carry so much melody that they're on the verge of bursting. There's not one track on this album that is anything less than excellent, and many are great, and Dorn so deftly communicates the gamut of emotions we run through when we lose someone we love. From the blatant sadness of "Without A Doubt," to the denial of "Last Thing On My Mind," to the rationalization of "Happy To Be Sad," Dorn shows himself to be a man of vast experience in this area, and we feel his empathy throughout.

All this being said, How I Learned To Stop Worrying is first and foremost a pop record, and it's a veritable candy store. The best tracks are the mildly flanged "Almost Something There," the could have been a hit for George Harrison "Something/Anything," "This Year's Jessica," which accomplishes something the Beatifics' homeboys The Replacements could never do -- write a rollicking pop song that didn't sound like it had a .25 blood/alcohol content.

Then there's the Vandalias-like (more homeboys) "Happy To Be Sad," the propulsive "Those Kids," and... hell, EVERY song is great, but perhaps the most moving is "Without A Doubt." Achingly beautiful and sad, you can't help but have tears well up when you hear Dorn sing "Is it so sad to watch a sweet thing die. I can't stand to be so sure," and the mellotron in this song is used to great effect, sounding like a chorus of cries.

No pop fan on this earth or any other planet should be without How I Learned To Stop Worrying. It's an emotional outpouring of sweet melodies and guitars without ever being wimpy, and it's a confessional that's vital to our well being.

-- David Bash