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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Breaking Benjamin, Love Arcade and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, August 6, 2006

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Breaking Benjamin “Phobia” Hollywood **

Breaking Benjamin draws a line between standard issue “emo” rock and emo with guts. Take “Breath,” the third track on the Pennsylvania quartet’s third album; it has all the requisite hand-wringing, heartbroken whining, until frontman Ben Burnley informs the song’s subject that “I will be the death of you” rather than dying on the vine himself. That kind of machismo has its fans — Breaking Benjamin’s last album, 2004’s “We Are Not Alone,” went platinum — but attitude is about all “Phobia” has going for it. In their blend of Dashboard Confessional sniffl ing, Nickelback craft and Godsmack heaviness, Burnley and company fall victim to formula, with most of the album’s 12 songs starting big before pulling back on the verses, then swelling in the choruses. For a band that prides itself on being heavy — and has a bona fi de metal master, David Bendeth, producing — “Phobia” seldom steps up and rocks — a notable exception being the stomping two-minute instrumental “You Fight Me.” But mostly we get songs with promising opening riffs — “Breath,” “Evil Angel,” “Until the End,” “Unknown Soldier” — that flatline themselves within a few bars. “The Diary of Jane” at least has a melody memorable enough to rise above what’s around it, while “Topless” maintains its oomph better than the other songs. Within that context, the measured kissoff track “Here We Are” is a welcome change of pace, with a more gradual dynamic build into a cresting, anthemic chorus and the best guitar solos of “Phobia.” Early on, Burnley notes that “something’s getting in the way;” hopefully he and his bandmates will identify and purge it before we hear from them again.


Love Arcade “Love Arcade” Atlantic ***

Detroit rock has long produced the weird and the wonderfully weird, and Love Arcade — the creative domain of the single-monikered East Detroiter Christian (a.k.a. Snowhite) — certainly stakes a strong claim in that lineage. The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s 12-song debut is a stylistic smorgasbord, jumping from the New Wavey hooks of “Keep it Coming” to the glammy drive of “Tease Me” and “Candy,” the funk ’n’ roll of “Can’t Stop” and “Party,” the poppy bounce of “Waste” and the womandone-me-wrong drama of “Going Down.” Christian’s abundant and cheeky personality is the glue that holds it all together, an auteur with attitude and formidable chops as both writer and performer.

New and noteworthy

Greg Brown, “The Evening Call” (Red House) — The veteran troubadour releases his first album of allnew material in four years.

Ani DiFranco, “Reprieve” (Righteous Babe) — The idiosyncratic DiFranco takes a minimalist route on her latest set, accompanied only by multi-instrumentalist Todd Sickafoose.

Bernard Fanning, “Tea & Sympathy” (Lost Highway) — The fi rst solo album from the frontman for Australia’s Powderfi nger.

Fourplay, “X” (RCA) — The 10th release by the all-star jazz group featuring U-M grad Bob James and guitarist Larry Carlton.

Gin Blossoms, “Major Lodge Victory” (Hybrid) — The hitmaking Arizona rockers’ turn out their first new album since reuniting in 2002.

Anthony Gomes, “Music is the Medicine” (Adrenaline) — The Canadian-born, Chicagobased singer-songwriter explores a rootsier path on his latest release.

Hellogoodbye, “Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!”

(Drive Thru) — You kinda want to check out this California quartet’s fulllength debut just to see if it lives up to its exclamation points.

Lola Ray, “Liars” (Red Ink) — Frontman John Balicanta allowed his bandmates more collaborative input on the Brooklyn rock group’s second album.

The Sadies, “In Concert, Vol. 1” (Yep Roc) — The Toronto alt.country groups loads up on guests on this live album, including Neko Case, The Band’s Garth Hudson, Jon Langford, Kelly Hogan and more.

Kelly Richey, “Speechless” (Sweet Lucy) — The blues/roots guitarist takes an allinstrumental approach on her first studio album in fi ve years.

Slayer, “Christ Illusion” (Warner Bros.) — The headbangers’ original lineup reunites on disc for the fi rst time since 1990’s “Seasons in the Abyss.”

Todd Snider, “Devil You Know” (New Door) — The country insurgent remains rebellious as ever on his ninth release.

Sorta, “Strange and Sad But True” (Summerbreak) — The sophomore album of jangly rock from one of Dallas’ upand-coming bands.

Under the Infl uence of Giants, “Under the Influence of Giants” (Island) — The fi rst fulllength album from the Southern California buzz.

Various Artists, “Rep Yo Set” (Reputable) — “American Idol” goes gangsta with this compilation of rap tracks by Los Angeles gang members.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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