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MUSIC REVIEW

State of the Airwaves

Lifehouse, Linkin, and Little Things

By Dan Katz

staff Writer

If you’ve read Douglas Adams’s The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, you would know that it describes a rock vocalist named Hotblack Desiato who is “spending the year dead for tax reasons.” To complete the lamest analogy ever to appear in this column, the Boston music scene seems to be spending the week dead for Thanksgiving. As far as I can tell, there are only two major shows all week: a second King Crimson show tonight at Berkelee Performance Center, and an evening with local art-rockers Lockgroove on Saturday at TT The Bear’s.

Big album releases for the week include MTV-friendly pop from Vitamin C (More) and, of course, the Backstreet Boys (Black & Blue). A more listenable disc comes from locals Jim’s Big Ego, whose new album Noplace Like Nowhere, already for sale on the Internet, goes into wide release today. Everclear drop the sequel to their Songs From An American Movie Vol. 1 -- you guessed it, Songs From An American Movie Vol. 2 -- while new EPs are out from NOFX and the Chemical Brothers (whose disc was apparently delayed from the last time I said it was out). Album title of the week honors go to the Pizzicato Five and The Fifth Release On Matador, while one of the most laid-back men on earth, Dweezil Zappa unleashes a CD called Automatic today.

With the concert scene stagnant, I’ve got a lot of space to fill this week. ... I believe I’ll use it to run through my opinions on new songs by new guitar rock bands. First up is Lifehouse and “Hanging By a Moment.” This band sounds so much like Sponge that I had to check and make sure they weren’t a side project. The song actually has a bit of a Creed influence, and what it lacks in hooks it makes up for with emotional vocals and a nice groove supported by a good guitar mix.

I’m generally skeptical of the “neo-metal” movement, but occasionally it produces a single so catchy and so irresistible I can’t help but like the band, such as Powerman 5000 and “When Worlds Collide.” The latest group to pull off this honor is Linkin Park, whose “One Step Closer” has come out of nowhere to become a radio hit. Like their current tourmates, Disturbed, Linkin Park succeeds partially thanks to being a hard rock band whose vocalist can unleash the requisite screams of the genre but also has a smooth and restrained voice when necessary. It also doesn’t hurt that their leading single has a killer chorus, and is short enough that overplay won’t kill its appeal.

I heard the chorus to “Little Things” by Good Charlotte before I heard the rest of the song, and I thought it sounded quite generically blink-182. It turns out that the poppy punky vocal hook is framed by a surprisingly sinister bass-driven musical structure with pro-freaks-and-geeks lyrics reminiscent of 2 Skinnee Js’ “Riot Nerd.” Together, they make the song stand out from Fenix TX and other blink-182 successors as something more unique.

But enough optimistic gushing about songs. Dust For Life’s “Step Into The Light” is doing better than any of the above songs on local radio, and to me that’s a great injustice. Most of the music and growling vocals are derivative of Alice In Chains and Godsmack, and the slow bluesy chorus kills all the momentum of the raging intro riff. It’s a song I listen to and can’t help but be disappointed that it’s not more cohesive. I suppose on one hand it’s less formulaic than other guitar rock songs, but at the same time, it seems to fall asleep prematurely.

And that should do it for this week. If you’re going home for Thanksgiving, drive/fly/ride/walk safely, and if you’re sticking around, try not to get too bored. And either way, send e-mail to <airwaves@the-tech.mit.edu> to let me know what you’d like to see in this column. You can also judge me as a person based on my music, which continues to be available at <http://mp3.com/dankatz>. Until the next heart-stoppingly exciting edition of Airwaves, have a lovely weekend and keep expanding your horizons.