Bjork loses eclectic touch, Puddle of Mudd wallows in the past

As Bjork’s stylistically singular, entirely idiosyncratic music moves forward, an expectation follows that she will reach a musical plateau.

If her album Vespertine (WEA/Elektra) is the musical zenith of past efforts it has been made out to be, we kindly suggest she take a few steps back and find a new path to perfection.

Vespertine displays a direct ascent from the electronic musical of previous efforts. Selma Songs, Bjork’s album accompaniment to the movie Dancer in the Dark and, her third album Homogenic offered a mix of styles that are lost on her new effort.

The quirky excursions into different styles Bjork took before are all but lost as she heads out a smooth, sinuous collection of lush, synth orchestrations.

True, Bjork’s breathy falsetto and rasping whoops remain the album’s focus, but the slow, even pace of its electronic beats never seem to alter enough to offer much variation from track to track.

Although none is truly bad, the 16 tracks all lack the necessary hook or vocal line to make them memorable.

As a testament to Bjork’s consistency, any one of them could have been the single, but unfortunately not one of them merits individual notice. In maturing, Bjork has found her niche and adopted a style, but we can only hope that she will return to the shaky, not always perfect but always interesting and exciting, experimentation of her earlier work.

Vespertine is in stores Tuesday

Do we really need another band that sounds exactly like Creed? Puddle of Mudd seems to think so.

To be fair, Puddle of Mudd wants to more than just Creed as it twists itself into the shape and sound of several recent rock successes. The new band’s debut, Come Clean (Geffen Records), reeks of every low voiced, slow rocking release to hit the charts in the past few years. The only difference is its complete lack of personality.

Come Clean is nothing more than the rehashing of recent hits by bands such as Lifehouse and Creed.

What’s even more unsettling is the band’s obvious desire to emulate the style of Alice in Chains. The resemblance is uncanny and obviously intentional.

Come Clean comes across as a mediocre grunge record and probably would not have been a success even during grunge’s heyday 10 years ago. Produced by Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst, Come Clean delivers 12 easily forgettable tracks with only one exception, the poppy “She Hates me,” which rests in the middle of the CD surrounded by pure filler.

Puddle of Mudd gained Durst’s attention by passing a demo to a Limp Bizkit roadie. From there the band started living a Cinderella, rags-to-riches story, getting signed to a major label and putting out its first major label release.

After seeing the product it is obvious that this Cinderella should have stayed at home and washed some dishes — a fate the band probably faces after its fantasy album tanks.

Come Clean is in stores Tuesday

Recognition does not necessarily garner respect. Such is the case with rock band Seven Channels.

The band first gained prominence on VH1’s “Rock Across America” when they were named one of the country’s “Top 5 unsigned bands.” Despite this semi-relevant accolade, Seven Channels still had to scrap it out on the streets to hustle a record deal, eventually signing with Palm/Mars Records after beating out 3000 other entries in a Mars record store contest.

The band’s new self-titled album, released on Palm/Mars records, offers a surge of lyrically driven moderate rock, touched in places with edgy guitar and vocals. It is not surprising that this band has gained major label attention. What’s surprising is that Seven Channels did it by sticking to the basics, playing stripped down rock music.

The self-titled record offers 10 tracks of flowing rock that, although individually may not be very distinguishable, have a certain unique charm. The album fuses the trademark sounds of bands such as The Marvelous 3, Matchbox Twenty, Lifehouse and Creed. Lead singer Kevin Kirkwood only offers minor distinction from these bands, with emotional, lisp-ridden verses complimented by unique harmonies during choruses.

Songs such as “Velcro Parade” and “Chasing Monsters” offer vague but intriguing lyrics and pop-ridden hooks – perfect for radio-rock fans. The album’s first single “Breathe” possesses an intoxicating sound during the verse but falls into an uninventive chorus. This ill-chosen single unfairly represents the band as just another bunch of rock star wannabes.

Seven Channels’ self-titled major label debut feels less like a hit record than a step in the right direction.

Although the album is a good effort, it still feels developmental as it flounders in search of originality.

The band’s efforts to reach the top are admirable. Now they need only to polish their music and gain much sought after success.

Seven Channels is in stores now

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