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Missouri’s Cavo feel like valedictorian graduates from the Nickelback School of Hardly Rocking employing the same hook-line-and-sinker method of attracting fans that the aforementioned band has used to garner platinum selling CDs. Churn out a radio-friendly, risqué single that is highly polished and over-produced (and over-played) then pull the rug out from under all the new fans and release a CD full of power ballads that would make Poison and Extreme blush.

It isn’t that Cavo’s debut full-length is necessarily a terrible CD, it just isn’t very good or anything original that we haven’t seen a dozen times (this year) and hundreds of times over the last decade. In this post-grunge hard rock era where band’s with a ballad can draw in legions of lovely ladies to worship them because they’re sensitive its hard to believe this sort of thing hasn’t happened a few hundred more times. If anything Cavo and producer David Bendeth know what they are doing to make a multi-platinum selling CD.

Everyone, by now, knows the lead single “Champagne“; which lit up rock radio and hit number one on the mainstream rock chart. “Let It Go,”; the band’s original power ballad, was featured on the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Soundtrack this past summer. The rest of the disc is filled with bleeding heart, emo-inspired tracks that ask you to look deeper into yourself, but sloppy been-there-done-that lyrics detract from even the most tolerable songs. From the song “Ghost”; we get this gem: “I’m taking scissors to all of the pictures of us / I’m cutting you out but it won’t be enough / It’s never enough / You’re still walking through my memories / I’ll never solve this mystery / I lie awake with echoes and whispers of you / I’m still haunted by you.”; You almost need to check and make sure you don’t have a Cure album in your CD player when running through some of these tracks.

Again, it isn’t that the band even has ballad(s) on the disc, it’s that they were marketed and presented as something different, months before the album debuted to build up anticipation, when the disc finally dropped there had to be more than a few people who basically asked themselves, “Who the hell is this? This is the band singing about champagne and cocaine?”; Maybe with a sophomore album that harkens back to a more pure rock focused mix of tunes the band can overcome, after all they’ve already used up their sophomore slump on their debut.

After Midnight Project’s full length debut, Let’s Build Something to Break, is an engaging mix of hard guitars, excellent vocal work, and the excellent producing of industry vet, and Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann. Feldmann’s previous work with the aforementioned Goldfinger, The Used, Mest, and Good Charlotte has turned him into the pop-punk go-to-guy for turning out infections songs that draw the audience in and disc that bloom with depth.

AMP’s debut is highlighted by Jason Evigan’s vocal work which makes the slickest song ever more so slick and the album’s few disappointments still bearable. Screaming out of the game with “Backlit“; and the aptly titled “Scream For You“; the disc sets itself up as a rock anthem of sorts, sport arena ready to be pounding through one million watts of power in front of 70,000 fans. Things start to slow down a bit midway through the disc, however never to the ballad level that many bands seem to stoop to in order to make a point.

The production and mixing is tight throughout, however there’s still some sloppy lyrical work here and there especially on the odd “More to Live For“; who’s intro and lead-out is generally spoken word nonsense and perplexing to say the least. This is the only low point of the album which, as mentioned before, comes together exceptionally well in the end with great hooks and Evigan’s restraint from screaming in the modern day alternative scene where screaming everything equals making a point about your emotions.

Let’s Build Something to Break is a strong full length debut for AMP, its not the most original work out there and casual listeners may lump them into a collective group of bands with similar pop-punk undertones, but the more hardcore rock songs are sure to at least let them stand out from the pack a bit. The band appears ready to break out, and there’s plenty of good material on this album to light the airplay charts on fire.

Sick Puppies’ third studio album, Tri-Polar plugs into the angst-fueled rock that was all the rage in the late 1990’s with bands like Papa Roach and Stabbing Westward, occasionally sentimental but hard driving in the point of broken dreams, bad feelings, and loneliness that drove them to write a particular song about it. Tri-Polar mimics this throwback to ten years ago but actually breaks out of the mold halfway through the album as the songs become more low key with juicier hooks, less in-your-face lyrics, and a more subdued, emotional embodiment of the aforementioned angst.

The album’s first single, “You’re Going Down“; is the radio-ready package full of combative hooks, hard driving guitars, suitable for WWE walk-ins (which is exactly what the song is currently used for). “Riptide“; nearly tricks you with its “Brain Stew“; slapping bass introduction, you almost expect Billy Joe to start talking about numbness.

More often than not albums are usually front loaded with singles and memorable tracks, but Tri-Polar actually gets better as it moves along with some of the album’s best tracks, “Maybe“; and “Don’t Walk Away“; hidden near the end of the disc. These tracks are less about screaming and more about melody as lead singer Shimon Moore’s vocal prowess comes into view more than simply yelling about stuffy every other Limp Bizkit-wannabe has been yelling about for ten years.

The album isn’t perfect by any means and for every genuinely deep song there’s a throwaway screaming to back it up, but as an package Tri-Polar manages to convey the feelings of angst in two distinctively different styles (maybe Bi-Polar would have been a better name). Far from an earth shattering release, Sick Puppies settles in and delivers a decent album with room to grow for the next.

Halestorm’s sound is best described as chick rock for guys, where else are you going to hear a female-fronted rock band sing about how she gets off knowing that you get off watching her undress as in the album’s lead off single, appropriately titled, “I Get Off“;, makes you plainly aware of? This isn’t to say that Halestorm is for girls only, anyone with a love for rock music will find something to like here, but there aren’t too many good female-leading rock bands on the scene, so when a new one comes along, notice must be taken. It doesn’t hurt the case that Halestorm’s full-length debut is a competent and engrossing release either.

While “I Get Off“; is the band’s lead off single, the best track on the disc is the lead-off “Its Not You“; with Lzzy Hale’s piercing vocals and a collection of great riffs and hard driving drums. Other standouts include “Innocence“; with more a calm demeanor Lzzy is able to be a bit more melodic than some of the harder tracks on the album. The record seems to be front loaded, as most of the single-ready, rock-steady tracks are contained in the first half. “Familiar Taste of Poison”; could almost be mistaken for Evanescence at times with Hale’s vocal performance mirroring that of the great Amy Lee in tone and inflection. The album finishes out strong with the guitar-infested “Dirty Work“; and another of the album’s more memorable tracks, “Nothing To Do With Love“; with Hale screaming over herself in the chorus and sound damn good in the process.

The self-titled album is immediately accessible which is both good and bad for the band. The album, is at times, a little safe, and while the song writing is top notch, the sound can be culled into a collection similar sounding bands like Paramore, Lacuna Coil, and to a point Evanescence in that there’s nothing dramatically new here to stand out amongst the crowd. Now Lzzy is easy on the eyes, and her openness with lyrics like those contained in the aforementioned single will certainly get noticed, the band just needed more of a breakthrough. However, Halestorm will be new to everyone outside the state of Pennsylvania, and the band’s formation as pre-teens will certainly have critics talking and taking notice. Its almost as though this album is a safe way to get the word out and let the band grow and evolve once a national fan-base has been established.

This shouldn’t detract from an overall good record, but where it could have been outstanding the opportunity was lost a little. It certainly looks like this band is here to stay though, with major backing of a major label, the debut already digitally available for those who pre-order the physical disc, they’re riding the technology curve that has engulfed and destroyed other bands. While the sound may be trued and true, the old adage of if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it comes into play. Halestorm certainly does rock, as their motto goes, and there’s nothing holding them back from rocking for the next decade or more, hopefully they’ll take that next step in doing something truly special.

For the past two and a half years jokes have been made round the dinner table about a certain part of the male anatomy in a cubic container and now the full CD from comedy troupe The Lonely Island finally drops with a collection of SNL digital shorts, new original recordings, and a whole lot of laughs.

The Lonely Island is like an unholy combination of Weird Al and The Beastie Boys (as per our own Executive Editor John Simons). The trio makes clever work of lampooning the hip-hop genre on nearly every track sans for a few pokes at electronica, R&B, and rock. Every SNL Digital Short from “Lazy Sunday“; to the most recent “I’m On A Boat“; can be found here including Natalie Portman’s foul-mouthed rant on her life.

There are highs and lows to the disc, a majority of the songs are pre-packaged for TV coming in under three minutes and trying to fit in as many jokes and lines as possible and seeing what sticks. The advantage here is that the lesser tracks are over relatively quickly, however the better tracks, with more hooks end far too quickly.

Some of the tracks, especially “Dick in a Box“;, with videos available come off clever, but the visual accompaniment added a little bit of spice that is sadly missing. Stand-outs on the album, that weren’t heard on SNL, include “Sax Man“; featuring Jack Black, Andy Samberg’s “Like A Boss“; and the ludicrously gross at times “Boombox“;.

Disappointments like basically all the interlude tracks and the never-going-to-be-funny “Ras Trent“; and “Space Olympics“; hamper and otherwise tightly crafted disc. Most of the tracks that don’t feature Samberg but instead only co-writers Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone seem to come up short. Even after the shock value of tracks like the euro-pop-farce “Jizz in My Pants“; wear thin the finely crafted lyrics and timing will still be present so while the initial knee-jerk is gone, the cleverness will remain.

The surprising aspect of the CD is the sheer number of guests present including Justin Timberlake, Portman, Norah Jones (singing about Chex Mix), Black, T-Pain, E-40, and SNL-alum Chris Parnell. This alone gives each track a unique selling point picking up some of the music industries biggest stars and dropping them into something completely out of their normal element.

Incredibad has its moments, and the songs you’ve grown to love over the past few years will certainly keep you entertained as well as a few new tracks here and there, but overall the disc falls short of comedic greatness.

With the first 3D re-release of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in 2006 Disney was so kind to release the soundtrack featuring all of the songs from the film as well as a bonus disc with cover versions of some of the most famous. The highlights being Marilyn Manson’s excellent cover of “This is Halloween“; and Fall Out Boy’s cover of “What’s This?“; Taking the collection to the next level this year sees the release of Nightmare Revisited, an entire album of cover songs with many different artists presenting new interpretations on the classics from the film.

What we’re left with is a mixed back of tracks from the excellent (Manson’s aforementioned “This is Halloween“;) to the excruciating unbearable (Sparklehorse’s cover of “Jack’s Obsession“;) and everything else falls into the permissible but forgettable category. Danny Elfman’s orchestrated opening and closing are the highlights of the album only because we’ve heard Manson’s track before, but everything that made the bonus disc two years ago so memorable has been stripped away.

Special mention is made to “Jack’s Obsession“; due to it being one of the best songs in the entire movie, however Sparklehorse’s murdering of the song is so bad after an initial listen through of the entire album the track has been permanently removed from my iPod, its really that bad. Things don’t get better in the beginning as Flyleaf’s “What’s This?“; rendition pails into comparison to Fall Out Boy.

There’s going to be a lot of debate on just how good some of these tracks are, and depending on which one’s you hold near and dear to your heart you’ll have a different opinion. The artists best suited to these covers are the band’s already provoking dark overtones such as Korn (“Kidnap the Sandy Claws“;) and Amy Lee from Evanescence (“Sally’s Song“). Other standouts include Rise Against’s rendition of “Making Christmas“; and The Polyphonic Spree’s “Town Meeting Song“; one of the longest on the album and a huge part of the film at 9 minutes long.

While thinking outside the box is admirable, messing with classic songs such as this with little regard for quality might overstep the bounds of many fans. Those looking for the originals can share in the excitement as the 2006 soundtrack is still available, but those looking for something different, might want to take a look at buying just the good songs off this album from one of the many digital outlets available.

It’s hard to listen to the radio or go into a bar and not hear Rehab’s “Bartender Song“; playing on the jukebox as the new anthem for the bar fly scene, but the remixed and remade track, originally title “Sittin’ At A Bar“;, becomes the lead off single for the band on their newest release, Graffiti the World. Away from the scene since 2000’s Southern Discomfort and a reformation and label change later, the southern-rock influenced band presents a variety of different genres on the latest disc touching on hip-hop, rock, mellow-dramatic anthems and even delving into electronica.

The disc leads off with the Kottonmouth Kings-like “Let Em Know“; which features a slick, flowing rhythm and brings the audience into the disc with their ears open and expectations set pretty high, unfortunately the next two tracks, “Bump“; and “Chest Pain“; fail to live up the promise set forth. “Bump“; is the band’s electronic-infused experiment complete with synths and voice manipulation, and while the clean electric guitar sound coos throughout the track, it fails to really inspire. The same can be said for “Chest Pain“; the anthem for falling off the wagon which is the first real rock track on the album but its narrative, albeit somewhat lazy lyrics keep it from greatness.

The title track is a much more mellow affair with hard beats but a softer sound bring social awareness to a head at the unfathomable hypocrisy in our society as the song goes, “The terrorists are in the White House and oversees / Racists, separatists, vicious militias / The Buddhists, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians / Could it be our biggest barrier is language.”; It’s a weird transition from the social commentary to the anthem of a parole violator talking it over with his bartender in the aforementioned “Bartender’s Song“; but the next stretch of tracks really show off what Rehab can do. “Last Tattoo,”; easily the song with the biggest hook and more mainstream sound is Rehab’s answer to a breakup song.

1980“; is another hip-hop infused track with a great drum backbeat that pulses through the entire song. “Bottles and Cans“; and “Lawn Chair High“; feel more like filler with decent rocks sounds but, again, some lazy lyrics that don’t make them very intriguing, especially the curious “Bottles and Cans“; which has a smooth flow to the song, but literally makes no sense. The next three tracks, “This Town“; an anthem to never really leaving home, even when you are on the road, “Red Water“; a poignant song about suicidal tendencies and the thought that just because you think someone has everything, doesn’t necessarily mean they do and “Walk Away“; the albums comic relief in the form of an adulterer getting caught finish out the disc nicely. The actually last track is “We Live“; another so-so track lost in the greatness of the tracks preceding it.

Graffiti the World is a strong album in parts, although there are a few throwaway tracks that don’t mesh well with some of the outstanding work done elsewhere. While “Bartender Song“; is sure to live on as a staple for the band it remains to be seen if they can find similar success with a bigger marketing push and a new single.

The always energetic and outspoken veteran comic Lewis Black is back with a new CD, the aptly named Anticipation. I say aptly named because anything you hear Lewis is going to do, you immediately can’t help but anticipate experiencing it. Whether it is one of his four critically acclaimed Comedy Central stand-up specials, or any of his prior books or CD’s, Lewis never fails to deliver, and he does so with this new offering as well.

While most audiences know Black more for his topical, political material, he mellows out a bit on this album, using a lot more cheery material. Everything he talks about in this act leads back to anticipation. He gives us the sad story about failed attempts, and eventual success, of losing his virginity. Other notable material is his always funny rant about why Chanukah sucks (written out on the track list as southerner’s say it, Chanooookah) when compare to Christmas, and why Santa would make the best presidential candidate.

The only criticism I’d have is that I honestly miss the political material. A secret or bonus track with something on the ’08 election would have been nice, but I completely understand changing up material so that you aren’t pigeonholed as one thing (like Bob Saget was on Full House and Funniest Home Videos, even though his stand-up has always been blue material). Hopefully we’ll get enough of his take on the ’08 election when he does his guest spot, Back in Black, on The Daily Show, or with his show The Root of All Evil, starting it’s second season on Comedy Central. No matter what, the bottom line is Anticipation is a continuation of the long line of good stuff from Lewis Black, and we hope he keeps the hits coming.

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