Page 3 of 3
· The Band That Saved the World, "Love and Music": Music is life, and life is music, croons Sublime's Brad Nowell from beyond the grave. Actually, it's the Band's easygoing vocalist conjuring his spirit over a backdrop so mellow it makes Sade sound like Slade. The tune's funky breakdowns score points, but the lyrics are more flowery than a botanical garden, particularly during a spoken-word interlude that includes the wings of a dove and other fluffy ingredients.
· Bryan Sanders, "Be Like You": After hearing so many artists fail at marrying rap and rock, it's easy to move for a permanent restraining order between the genres. But Sanders, riding an enormous drum mix and an irresistible squiggly melody, makes the pairing work. His rhyming skills are solid, his instrumentation captures hip-hop's thump and metal's crunch and he remains composed during the chorus rather than delivering the obligatory rant.
· Drew, "Wish I Never Had": Powered by a na-na-na hook and piano-pop pep, Drew's fluff bunny overcomes an unnecessary guitar solo and a less-than-sturdy bridge.
· Key, "One Sweet Night": A jangly jam in the Barenaked Ladies vein, "One Sweet Night" suffers from oversinging (lots of growls and held notes), a thin sound that begs for low-end support and an unjustly neglected groove. The tune seems to reach a sweet resolution but then unexpectedly (and unwisely) attempts to rock.
· Cheating Kay, "A World Without Heroes": The most "alternative" of the selections, "Heroes" contains some stellar free-range instrumentation after its choruses. Opening with a wilting falsetto and piano accents, the track stumbles through an awkward noisy phase before settling into a strong series of progressive elements.
· Hakim, "Put up a Fight": The second tomb raider of the batch, Hakim resurrects both 2Pac's clear, confident delivery and his paranoia about enemies. His mic command is impressive, and the beat, sprinkled with piano, bells and mild percussion, fits his flow.
· The Joe Fund, "She's Allright": This track will get this band signed immediately -- if it locates a time machine and transports itself back to 1997, when ska-punk was all the rage. Granted, there's still something of a market for cheery love songs studded with rumbling bass lines and horn-section blasts. Perhaps The Joe Fund can hook up with Mojo Records, the inexplicably resilient home of Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish.
· Maryjane Green, "Run Girl Run": This twangy tune is indistinguishable from anything on KBEQ 104, which is both a compliment to its recording quality and an indictment of its originality. Green's voice is strong but lacking in dramatic power; a song advising a girlfriend to flee an alcoholic husband needs more emotional crackle.
· Shiver, "L.U.S.T.": An agreeable big-dumb-rock riff kick-starts this number, a neatly constructed bridge leads into its arena-ready chorus and some rapid-fire guitar bursts spark aftershocks, but snarly vocals and utterly disposable oh yeeeeeah interjections introduce unwelcome echoes of latter-day Metallica.
· Bill Belzer, "My Fingers Crossed": Belzer's well-played alt-pop chills like a brief breeze, but his wispy vocals seem to have been swept away in the gust.