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Some Overdue Spring Cleaning
By John Brodeur

A whole lot of CDs come into the Metroland office each week and, to be honest, a lot of them end up in my desk drawer (it’s the middle one on the left hand side, in case anyone’s looking for something in particular). Very few, however, will get reviewed in these pages. Every once in a while, the drawer starts to get a little too full, so I have to “trim the fat,” so to speak. Rather than just sell ’em back to Last Vestige or leave ’em in a box by the curb, I figured I’d “do my job” as a critic and say a few words about them as they’re on their way out.


Snow Patrol
Final Straw (A&M/Polydor)

Identity crisis alert! Snow Patrol’s first official U.S. release sounds an awful lot like a Coldplay record as remixed by Rings Around the World-era Super Furry Animals. Then it sounds like My Bloody Valentine covering Sebadoh. Then it’s Wilcopol (follow me here). Breathy vocals, reminiscent of Neil Tennant or Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, are mixed way out front to avoid getting swallowed by the overdriven drums and neat ProTools effects that will probably do nothing but date the album in the long run. There are some nice songs here, though—“How to Be Dead” has a circular, hypnotic melody, and “Chocolate” has an impenetrable chorus hook.

Richard Marx
My Own Best Enemy (EMI-Manhattan)

Was anybody really waiting around for Richard Marx to come out with another album? Apparently somebody at his old label thought that, after Marx stole last year’s Best Song Grammy (for penning Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father”), people would want to hear him sing his own songs. Enemy starts off on a semi-modern note with “Nothin’ Left to Say,” which boasts some Matrix-like production strokes and a handful of interesting, Beatlesque chord progressions. After that, it’s exactly what should be expected from a soft, aging mullethead like Richard Marx—12 soulless, forced renditions of the theme song from Full House. Even the emo-lite “Everything Good” sounds walked through.


Sleep Station
After the War (Eyeball/Bardic)

Lush pop melancholia; like Nick Drake fronting the Carpenters. Better yet, imagine the Pernice Brothers covering a Scud Mountain Boys record. In fact, I had to double check the liner notes to make sure this wasn’t actually the new Chappaquiddick Skyline CD. Main songwriter David Debiak is obviously drawing from the same musical well as Pernice; he succeeds because he knows that well is incredibly deep. The melodies are sweet and delivered in an earnest near-whisper, the instrumentation is imaginative and complementary; the whole thing gives legs to the argument that the best records will generally go unheard.

Coheed and Cambria
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 (Equal Vision/Columbia)

I don’t get it. Then again, I don’t dig Rush, I don’t go to the Warped Tour, and I don’t play Dungeons & Dragons.

Now It’s Overhead
Fall Back Open (Saddle Creek)

The only non-Omaha-based band on the Saddle Creek label might also be the best—even if they’re not really a proper band. Andy LeMaster has played on or produced most of the label’s releases, and his hands were just about the only ones involved in making Fall Back Open. What’s truly surprising is just how good LeMaster’s songs are—why is Conor Oberst getting all the attention when this guy’s got tunes like “The Decision Made Itself” and the Depeche Mode-y “Wait in a Line”? He’s got a way with words, too—the personal-ad-quoting “Profile” is, perhaps inadvertently, one of the creepiest tracks of the year.

Butterfly Boucher
Flutterby (A&M)

Boucher’s debut sure does sound pretty. The drum sounds are perfectly shitty—loaded with torn- speaker-cone fuzz, rather than blown-up Bonham-sized—the arrangements are padded with the requisite adult-alternative ornamentation (acoustic guitars, atmospheric synths), and the vocals (every last track of ’em) are cleaner than clean. Getting suspicious? Well, you should be—you can’t polish a turd, as they say. It takes about 10 seconds for this one to give itself away. Just check out the first line: “When it doesn’t rain, it snows . . . the cookie crumbles, but in whose hand?” Bullshit.

Keane
Hopes and Fears (Interscope)

It’s Coldplay! No, it’s Travis! Believe me—in eight years, this is going to sound like a-ha or O.M.D. to us.

Robbers on High Street
Fine Lines (Scratchie/New Line)

Glammy, garage-y, postpunky pop, like what might happen if the Strokes were force-fed a diet of 1972-74 Bowie, or if Spoon weren’t so weird. The EP format is a great way to present this type of band: It’s a solid, digestible cross-section of what they’re getting at, without tacking on the filler that makes you realize that first single is as good as it’s gonna get. Extra points for the song title, “Hot Sluts (Say I Love You).”


Bad Religion
The Empire Strikes First (Epitaph)

It’s great to hear these guys fired up about something again. Sure, their formula hasn’t changed—guitar-heavy (as in three guitars) pop-punk coupled with Greg Graffin’s book-smart lyrics and layers of Beach Boy harmonies—but Empire has a heavier political bent than usual (gee, I wonder why) and the execution is a “how-to” lesson for bands half their age. Plus, this record has two undeniably cool cameos: Mike Campbell (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and Sage Francis. Now that’s fucking teamwork. Recommended if you like: Bad Religion.


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