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Noteworthy new albums

From heroes to '00s: Crowded House and the members of Velvet Revolver try to reclaim the glories of their 1990s heydays.

July 13, 2007



Crowded House – Time on Earth (ATO): If there was ever such a thing as a musical genome project, musicologists would try to map the dulcet double helix in the DNA of Crowded House's Neil Finn. Given that the songwriter's trove of indelible tunes are hummed the world over, news of Crowded House's reunion has led to high expectations. They should be downscaled. The 2005 suicide of the band's drummer Paul Hester weighs heavily on "Time on Earth," and the album's drooped-shoulder melancholy leaves little room for the sort of jaunty anthems Finn is known for. (A few bouncy tracks, such as "Even a Child" and "She Called Up," seem labored.) Once accepted on its own terms, however, this requiem reveals a new side of Finn's talents on minor (chord) pleasures such as "A Sigh" and "Silent House." Grade: B
– Stephen Humphries

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Kim Richey – Chinese Boxes (Vanguard): Ten flowing tracks nest comfortably on this sixth album (and first studio work in five years) by Richey, a sterling vocalist whose songwriting has served the careers of such artists as Mary Chapin-Carpenter and Trisha Yearwood. Richey's own smooth, contemporary sound blends country, pop, and folk. And this selection – produced by Giles Martin of The Beatles "Love" remix fame – shows that she has reserved some shimmering songcraft for herself. "The Absence of Your Company" nails the sorrowful yearning of a relationship worn thin. "I Will Follow," with tambourine and backing vocals, has a bright, alt/indie vibe. In "Drift" and "Pretty Picture," in particular, Richey's alto dreamily roams. Grade: A
– Clayton Collins

The Click 5 – Modern Minds and Pastimes (Atlantic Records): Think power pop along the lines of Fountains of Wayne, minus the Conan O'Brien-worthy deadpan lyrics. The Click Five's 2005 debut offered a fine batch of sugary teeny-bop melodies and lyrics, leavened with just enough restraint to allow for a less-than-guilty pleasure among older listeners. With its second album (and new singer Kyle Patrick), the five Berklee College of Music alums perfect their fizzy formula by adding a dollop of rock bite. "Happy Birthday," with its sing-along vocal and nifty double-back lyric, could be the best single of the year – if the label is smart enough to back it. Whether channeling the kind of 1980s vibe that left the Romantics talkin' in their sleep or accessorizing with Cars-ready keyboards, the band clicks on all cylinders, with nary a misstep save a ballad or two too many on the disc's second half. Grade: B
– Erik Spanberg

Velvet Revolver – Libertad (RCA Records): The fact that Velvet Revolver lasted long enough to make a second album is remarkable enough in itself. That the disc offers disciplined, groove-heavy hard rock kicks the surprise up a few more notches. The supergroup, which consists of three former Guns N' Roses members (guitarist Slash, drummer Matt Sorum, and bassist Duff McKagan), the ex-Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland, and guitarist Dave Kushner, offers a triple-barreled opener of driving anthems on "Libertad." Throughout the album, the band delivers relentless riffs, an oddball but effective cover (ELO's "Can't Get it Out of my Head"), and a twangy bonus track that amuses along the lines of G N' R's "Used to Love Her." Lyrically, the Revolvers are loaded with clichés and non sequiturs, but the vocals and precise playing override most of those blanks. Grade: B–
– E.S.

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