Although these guys are often dismissed as gross "sell outs" who had the commercial success that The Replacements deserved, this album will always hold a special place in my heart. You see, they were unknowns when I got tickets to take my then new girlfriend to see them at Irving Plaza in New York City. Of course, like 99% of the population back then she hadn't heard of them and thought that their name was ridiculous, but sure enough, about a week after the concert (which was decent, not great) "Name" blew up on the radio and they were superstars. As a result, "Name" has always been kind of "our song" (my then girlfriend is my now wife), and a fine mid-tempo ballad it is, even today after all the overexposure. The rest of this absurdly named album, which is where the band became more chart-mindful after a rawer, harder rocking first three albums (the ones the indie crowd likes, of course), strikes a good compromise between driving rock and accessible pop. The guitars are bright but punchy, the drums have a propulsive pop, and Lou Giordano adds his crisp yet not-too-glossy (yet undeniably radio friendly) touch to a catchy batch of tunes. Of course, you could argue that if you've heard one of these songs you've heard them all; a lack of variety and originality is definitely a problem, as the band seems to rework the same chords in slightly different ways, so some of the songs start to sound similar after awhile. Also, I'm not a big fan of bassist Robby Takac (who plays the goofy sidekick while main man John Rzeznik plays the rugged teen heartthrob), mostly because of his wimpy voice (he sounds like the guy in R.E.O. Speedwagon) but also because his songs are more hit-or-miss. Still, if you can get past their ridiculous name and the fact that Rzeznik sounds like a smoothed over Paul Westerberg crossed with Bon Jovi (their cheesy lyrics on songs such as "Burnin' Up" and "Disconnected" also give Jon a run for his money), you’ll probably concede that the band has undeniable strengths, chief among them being their undeniable hooks and catchy harmonized choruses. In addition to the gorgeous “Name,” which broke the band big after years of toiling in relative obscurity, the excellent "Naked," which contains a great groove along with Rzeznik's weary vocals and even a good guitar solo, also got some airplay. “Long Way Down,” “Flat Top,” “Only One,” “Ain’t That Unusual,” and “Eyes Wide Open” (the latter an inspiration for the Foo Fighters "Everlong?") are other highlights with soaring, anthemic riffs and easily singable choruses. A few songs ("Impersonality" and "Somethin' Bad," for example) fail to really ignite, and their campy Alice Cooper-like cover of the Lime Spiders’ “Slave Girl” seems out of place, but by and large the band's energetic and polished brand of power pop satisfies, though the band really went for a top 40 sound thereafter (sometimes with excellent results, it should be added, like on Dizzy Up The Girl’s “Slide” and (to a lesser extent) “Iris,” major hits both).
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