New Radicals

Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too (MCA ’98) Rating: B+
This is the best album that Karl Wallinger never wrote, as leader Gregg Alexander’s band sounds eerily similar to World Party. In addition to a striking vocal similarity (they even both rely on sweeping falsetto moves), Alexander shares with Wallinger a keen sense of melody and an embrace of strong production values, which that sharpen the lightly funky, highly danceable grooves of “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough” and the title track, not to mention several soulful mid-tempo ballads. Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too is a straightforward but stylish pop album that is fittingly getting some airplay in the form of the supremely hummable hit single “You Get What You Give.” Surprisingly, several other songs are almost as good, as Alexander and company overcome a homogenous sound with consistently strong songs. These mostly mellow songs are built around pretty piano and streamlined guitar lines, though there's also the occasional wailing guitar or screamed vocal for variety’s sake. Alexander is a playful and smart lyricist (example: “I can't help failing to remember to forget you”), but more than anything it’s the band’s melodic music and strong performances that carry the day on memorable songs such as “I Don't Wanna Die Anymore,” “Someday We’ll Know,” and “In Need Of A Miracle.” Granted, as the album winds down it starts to seem like less than the sum of its impressive parts, and the album's louder moments can grate, but in this age of fake alternative, generic hip-hop, and bland r&b, a well-conceived mainstream pop album is something that’s become increasingly rare and commendable.

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