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CD REVIEW

Rock Doesn’t Go Past Being ‘Good Now’

Bob Schneider Sings Unoriginal but Catchy Music

By Minyoung Jang

staff writer

I’m Good Now

Bob Schneider

Shockorama

Released April 13

If there was ever a good example of an artist’s music reflecting his name, Bob Schneider is it. The name isn’t as ubiquitous as John Smith, but it’s still pretty unmemorable and nondescript. Likewise, Schneider’s sophomore album, “I’m Good Now,” showcases his ability to write catchy rock songs that are his own but fails to record material that is groundbreaking or even unique sounding.

The first two tracks, “Come With Me Tonight” and “Medicine,” are solid rock songs. They sound a bit like Pete Yorn meeting The Wallflowers -- the songs have good hooks in the choruses, sung by Schneider’s strong voice, but in the end seem rather unoriginal. The next few songs are a bit better, however.

“A Long Way to Get” is an introspective number sung over an acoustic guitar and Schneider keeps it from being boring by adding layer upon layer with each verse, first background vocals, then keyboard, then banjo, and so forth. It’s as if a new sound accompanies a new twist or turn in the “story” presented by the song. He follows this up with “The Way Life is Supposed to Be,” by far the catchiest song on entire album. There’s a simple melody in the chorus, fun synthesized keyboard sounds in the intro to each verse, and lots of “doo doo doo’s” in the background. The only thing I didn’t like about this song was the line in the chorus “you’ll never be what you will never be.” Perhaps I’m missing something, but this is definitely not one of the best lines penned in rock music.

Schneider continues to mix it up with “I’m Good Now,” traversing into more traditional, almost-but-not-quite-country rock territory. The album takes a bit of an unexpected turn with “C’mon Baby,” a journey into angry rock -- the kind where you might expect an anguished scream or two from the vocalist to accompany eardrum-pounding guitars and percussion. “The Bridge Builders” continues this angry mood but starts to tone it down a bit, just in time to segue into the very laid-back “Cap’n Kirk,” a whimsical song that declares Schneider “just want[s] to feel good.”

The tempo remains relaxed with “Gold in the Sunset,” where a bit of melancholy rock meets reggae and “Piggyback” features nice percussion with tastefully added sampling from outside sources. “Getting Better” is just as easygoing, complete with nonchalant and fun “la la la’s,” sounds reminiscent of whistling, and some fun, gruff vocal ad-libbing that somehow I envisioned would be perfect coming from a large, happy Muppets character singing and dancing along a beach.

Bob Schneider gets props from me for mixing up different styles -- his album thankfully isn’t composed of one song sounding exactly like another, a pit that solo artists sometimes fall into. However, he loses points for lack of innovation. There’s nothing in his songs that is pleasantly surprising; there are no undertones to pick out in a song and say “hey, I didn’t know that was there... but it sounds good.”

Despite the fact that “I’m Good Now” is being credited as a solo album, this is a production that most likely couldn’t have been possible without the help of many, many musicians other than Bob Schneider. Everything on this album is solid and, more noticeably, fairly lush sounding. There are many different instruments and sounds featured in each song, with all the layers blending well together, which I’m assuming is produced by many musicians or is the product of excellent mixing in the studio. (The only one artist I’ve heard who’s been able to accomplish this mostly by himself is Julian Coryell, and even he wouldn’t be able to manage the level of mastery on the number of instruments featured in Schneider’s album).

There are few things that set Schneider apart from all the other rock musicians out there, but it’s the fact that he does several things fairly well that makes this album superior to many others. For example, he’s got a great voice for rock music, a slightly gruff baritone, and he makes excellent use of background vocals and synthesized sounds, adding embellishments over almost all of the more upbeat songs. Good percussion also adds to the strong feel of the album. For the most part, his lyrics also tell interesting stories in simple words without being annoyingly cryptic -- a la Dan Bern, but sans Dan Bern’s nasal voice and with a greater emphasis on being a rock band rather than an acoustic-sounding solo artist.

Bob Schneider ultimately produces a strong, catchy pop/rock album with “I’m Good Now” but doesn’t manage to set himself apart from the crowd. He’s still worth a listen though; if distinguishing himself from Pete Yorn and The Wallflowers is his biggest problem, I’d say at least he keeps pretty good company.